It will be an awfully familiar matchup in the GMAC softball final, but one that has been significantly lopsided.
Coral Reef and Palmetto won their respective semifinals on Tuesday at Palmetto Bay Park to meet in the final for the fourth consecutive season.
The Barracudas, Class 8A state semifinalists last season and champions in 2013, sweat out a 12-5 win against American that was tied as late as the sixth inning, and the Panthers cruised to a 21-1 run-rule victory in four innings over Coral Gables.
Coral Reef (20-4) won the previous two GMAC finals and has won 12 in a row against Palmetto entering the final at 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday.
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With Coral Reef and American tied at 5 and the bases loaded in the bottom of the sixth, cleanup hitter Denver Keller knocked home the go-ahead run with an RBI single and senior center fielder Cristina Colli followed with a grand slam that sunk the upstart Patriots.
The two clutch hits came after American intentionally walked FSU-bound Carsyn Gordon, who went 3 for 3 with two home runs and a double.
“That got me mad because they thought me and Denver were going to choke under the pressure,” said Colli, who finished 2 for 4. “That’s the complete opposite of me and Denver. That’s why we’re there. We know everyone’s going to walk Carsyn. She’s a great player. We just need to be there to pick her up when she does get walked.”
American (14-11) trailed 5-0 early but put together a five-run third inning to tie it, spearheaded by a three-run homer from Kayleen Romero off Rebecca Sutton, who started for the Barracudas instead of ace Michelle Mesa.
After the big inning, Coral Reef coach Dario Rodriguez inserted Mesa in relief, and she gave up just one hit in her four shutout innings.
Mesa will be unavailable for Wednesday’s final due to a college visit, and Gordon, who has pitched once this season, will take the mound for Reef.
Palmetto (18-5) didn’t need nearly as much drama to advance to the final.
A seven-run first inning put the Panthers firmly in front from the start and a 10-run fourth sealed the run-rule victory.
Kiley Kross went 5 for 5 with four RBI and three runs scored, and Amanda Guglietta pitched a complete game to go with her 2-for-3 night at the plate.
▪ Coral Reef 12, American 5
AM 0 0 5 0 0 0 0 — 5 8 3
CR 4 1 0 0 0 7 X — 12 14 2
WP: Mesa (15-3). LP: Castroman (12-8).
▪ Palmetto 21, Coral Gables 1
PAL 7 3 1 10 X X X — 21 21 1
CG 1 0 0 0 X X X — 1 2 2
WP: Guglietta (7-3). LP: Wilson (10-3).