There have been a lot of brutal losses to district rival Goleman over the years for the Miami Springs girls softball team but last week’s District 15-6A championship game at Slade Park in Hialeah Gardens has to go up there right at the top of the list.
Leading the Gators 4-0 after four innings and, with one of the best pitchers in the county on the mound in Geneva Santos, it appeared the Springs girls had things on cruise control and were on their way to a district championship.
So much for appearances.
Talk about the bottom dropping out.
Not only did Goleman put together a two-out rally in the top of the fifth by scoring four runs to tie the game, but then took that momentum and scored four more runs over the final two innings to record a stunning 8-4 comeback victory.
The only good news for the Lady Hawks is that, unlike a year ago when they suffered a 6-5 loss to Goleman in the district semifinals to see their season come to an end and miss the regional playoffs for the first time in eight years, the season didn’t end on this day.
Since both teams who make the district final advance to regionals regardless, Springs will move on to this week’s regional quarterfinals. But, instead of hosting Mater Academy at Virginia Gardens Field this Wednesday night (April 23), the Hawks will have to hit the road and play a much-tougher Doral Academy team over in Doral at 7 p.m. while Goleman will get to host Mater at Slade Park.
I’ve known head coach Charlie Green for more than two decades handling the softball program and I can count the number of times on my hand that he was “spitting nails” after a game and this was one of them.
“It’s frustrating when you only give up three hits and you lose a game giving up eight runs and blowing a four-run lead. We left something like 14 runners on base and you make so many unacceptable mistakes on the base paths and that will come back and bite you every time and it bit us today.”
Green spoke of some awful baserunning by Springs as one inning ended when a player left too soon on a tag-up that would’ve resulted in a run, another player inexplicably rounded second base and took off for third despite it being only an infield hit and was subsequently tagged out.
And yet a third instance where another player, with the bases loaded and two outs, started to take off for home before realizing the ball had not gotten to the backstop and then slipped trying to get back to third to end the inning.
“Sure, it should’ve been at least six or seven nothing and the game should’ve been over,” said Green. “All of a sudden, your pitcher gets a little wild, we make one bad play in the outfield and the game is tied just like that.”
Green spoke of the fateful fifth inning when the entire game swung.
Santos was literally cruising having retired 13 straight Goleman batters including the first two to lead off the fifth. With nobody on and two outs and the number seven hitter coming up for Goleman, nobody could’ve seen what was coming.
Santos suddenly lost the strike zone and walked three straight, the number seven, eight and nine hitters in the lineup to bring up Goleman’s leadoff hitter Michi Oliva.
With two strikes on her, Oliva then lined a base hit into center field. At worst, it should’ve yielded no more than two runs. But unfortunately, after having probably not made a single error all season, center fielder Emily Santos (Geneva’s younger cousin) picked an awful time for her first as the ball skipped right over her glove and all the way to the center field fence,
Oliva touched all the bags for an inside-the-park grand slam as the Goleman dugout erupted in a wild frenzy amidst stunned Springs players.
“She (Geneva) has just too much experience to do that in that situation,” said Green of the three straight two-out walks. “Sorry but you just can’t do that.”
One inning later, with two outs and a runner on third, Goleman freshman Emily Bacallao lofted a soft pop up towards second base that Nicole Borroto could not get to that turned into an infield hit and the Gators led 5-4.
Just how frustrating was it for Springs and how snakebitten they appear to be against Goleman came into clear focus in the bottom half of the sixth.When the Hawks loaded the bases with only one out and had on of their best hitters up at the plate in Tiffany Turman, it looked like they might rally for the win.
With two strikes Turman fouled off six consecutive pitches, the sixth being a line shot down the left field line that would’ve easily cleared the bases and given Springs a 7-5 lead. The ball was foul by less than a foot. And of course you know what happend on the next pitch, right? Called strike three on the outside corner – two outs.
Borroto then came up and grounded out to shortstop to end the inning and when the Gators added three more runs in the top of the seventh, aided by two errors, it was just a matter of waiting for Goleman players to storm the mound in celebration which Springs players had to painfully watch.
“Very frustrating, I really thought we had this game and should’ve never let it get away,” said Geneva Santos. “It stinks because this is my last year and it would’ve been nice to go out with a district championship but at least we still have a chance.”