SoftballCypress Bay

Title or bust for Lightning

 

grichards@MiamiHerald.com

The Cypress Bay softball team has had one goal all season: Get to the state final four.

Once the Lightning won its regional final last week, it upgraded a little.

“We’re going up there to win,” junior pitcher Sarah Maloney said. “We’re pretty confident in just being able to get there. When we started the year, we knew it didn’t matter who we beat or who we lost to, we just had to make it to state.”

Cypress Bay has advanced to state for the second time in school history and first time since coach Lonnie Shapiro was in his first year with the Lightning in 2004.

The Lightning will face Orlando’s West Orange in a Class 8A semifinal at 7 p.m. Friday at the former Dodgertown complex in Vero Beach.

Shapiro knows his squad has a chance to make history and bring home the school’s first team state title.

The Lightning goes into its semifinal riding a nine-game winning streak that includes three wins at the regional level by a combined score of 20-1.

“We’ve been dominant in our nine straight wins,” Shapiro said. “We haven’t had many close games. We have a very talented group of girls.”

Before its nine-game run, Cypress Bay went through a rough patch.

The Lightning started its season winning its first nine games with victories over St. Thomas Aquinas, Cooper City and American Heritage.

Then the Lightning dropped games to Western and Pines Charter before going a disappointing 1-3 in the Kissimmee Klassic at the end of March.

“We got better throughout the year,” Maloney said. “We were strong at the beginning of the year, then there were some shaky moments. We had a wake-up call; people doubted us.”

When the Lightning got back from Central Florida, Shapiro said his team was humbled.

“We went up there with the expectation of winning,” Shapiro said. “We struggled up there on the field, we struggled with our chemistry. It was just a tough trip.

“We came back and had two choices: Figure it all out and meet our goals. We knew none of our goals were compromised. We could still accomplish everything we wanted.”

And so the Lightning has done just that — so far.

That rough spot was all but forgotten Friday night when the Lightning made it past the regional tournament after a loss in last year’s final.

The Lightning lost to Jupiter in the ninth inning in 2012 and vowed to move past the regional finals this spring.

Last week, Maloney was spotted a 5-0 lead by the second inning en route to a 5-1 win over host Palm Beach Central.

Since losing 10-1 to Lake Howell in its final game of the Kissimmee tournament, the Lightning has outscored its opponents 63-5.

“We are real excited about going and having this opportunity especially after losing in the regional final last year,” Maloney said. “We have a really good team, and I think we have a good chance to win this.”

Read more Broward High Schools stories from the Miami Herald

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