Coral Reef softball shows clout in taking GMAC title

Coral Reef’s softball team hasn’t had the same smooth ride so far this season as it did on the way to the 2013 Class 8A state championship.

But with efforts like the one it had Thursday night, the Barracudas still appear to be on course toward a potential repeat.

Despite missing two of its top players to injury, Coral Reef belted three home runs, including a walk-off, three-run home run by shortstop Kylan Becker, to rout Palmetto 15-3 in six innings and capture its second consecutive GMAC championship at Palmetto Bay Park.

The Barracudas (17-8) defeated district rival Palmetto (15-7) for the eighth consecutive time and third time this season.

“We learned from each of our losses this season,” Becker said. “We haven’t lost any really crucial games, and we’ve won when we needed to and come back stronger.”

Coral Reef went 28-2 last season en route to its first state championship.

This season, however, injuries to key players such as second baseman Denver Keller (hand) and recently to third baseman Carsyn Gordon (leg) have led to a few more defeats against some of the state’s best.

But through it all Coral Reef has counted on a collective effort to weather the storm and maintain itself as one of Miami-Dade County’s top teams.

“I have a great group of girls on this team,” Coral Reef coach Dario Rodriguez said. “We had a meeting after [the Kissimmee Klassic]. We didn’t finish our games over there. I was frustrated because I don’t like seeing us fail because I know, even with Carsyn and Denver out, the kind of talent we have. I admire these girls because they all fight for each other.”

One of the top contributors has been senior catcher Alex Garcia, who went 3 for 4 with a home run Thursday, helping Coral Reef erase a 3-0 deficit in the second inning. The Barracudas scored four in that inning, three in the fifth and seven in the sixth, sparked by a home run by Cristina Colli and Becker’s final shot to center field. Colli went 2 for 4 with a home run.

“Our team has definitely had to step up our game even more,” Garcia said. “Especially after Carsyn got hurt in Kissimmee, we really told ourselves we have to win it for the players who are hurt.”

Coral Reef capitalized on five Palmetto errors in the game, and pitcher Michelle Mesa recovered from a rough first two innings by not allowing another run over the final five frames.

“Every time we lose, we pick it up because we really want to help each other through this,” Mesa said. “It’s been a little nerve-racking [being the top pitcher] but also exciting. I want to help them win state again.”

PAL 120 000 0 – 3 6 5

CR 040 130 7 – 15 12 0

WP: Michelle Mesa. LP: Amanda Guglietta (7-3).

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