Softball | Class 8A semifinal: Coral Reef vs. Orlando Timber Creek, 7 p.m. Friday

Barracudas achieve season full of firsts

 

Special to The Miami Herald

It was a routine double play, but the significance of getting the last out was not lost on the Coral Reef softball team. As the opposing runner was tagged, the Barracudas sprinted onto the field for a celebration that included “a few tears,” as one player said.

The tears of joy were the result of a season-long quest that culminated with Coral Reef advancing to its first state tournament with a regional final victory over Goleman.

“This is everything for me. I could not imagine my senior year any other way,” pitcher Dayna Wilson said. “This is more than anything I ever asked for. Winning states would make my senior year perfect.”

A four-year varsity team member, Wilson has been there for heartbreaking losses that prevented the Barracudas from making playoff runs.

This season, the players made a promise to themselves and first-year coach Dario Rodriguez that this would be the most successful year in the program’s history.

“The experience has been exceptional,” Rodriguez said. “We set high goals.”

This season has brought a number of firsts for Coral Reef, including winning the GMACs, the district tournament and the regional final.

The Barracudas had never advanced past the regional quarterfinal round.

While the successes keep piling up for the Barracudas, the team understands that it must beat semifinal opponent Timber Creek on Friday night to play for the ultimate prize.

“We have to take it one game at a time. There is no state championship if we don’t win on Friday,” sophomore shortstop Kylan Becker said. “We’ve never faced this team, and we can’t take them lightly.”

Although they might not have faced Timber Creek before, the Barracudas (26-2) have played some of the best Class 8A teams in the state. Coral Reef has put together a slew of impressive wins, including taking first place in the Gold Division at the Kissimmee Klassic. Coral Reef’s only two losses came against Westminster Christian and Gulliver Prep.

“I don’t know what to expect at states. I know we are prepared for it, and our girls are really hungry,” Rodriguez said. “We have played in every situation this year, and that in itself is a big plus.”

Thanks to one of the strongest offenses in the state and excellent infield defense, Coral Reef is two wins away from winning its first state title.

Even though the Barracudas have an impressive list of postseason victories, the playoffs have brought their fair share of adversity.

During fielding practice, Becker — one of the best hitters in the state — took a ground ball off her face. The impact broke her nose and threatened to end her playoff run. Doctors advised Becker to sit out to help her nose heal.

But Becker, not wanting to be deterred, was allowed to return sooner than expected if she wore a protective face mask.

Without Becker, the team’s leadoff hitter, the Barracudas would be missing one of the most important parts of their offense.

Becker’s determination to play has been an inspiration to her teammates.

“Hitting is contagious,” sophomore designated hitter Cassandra Garcia said. “It motivated me.”

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