In last year’s state championship game, Westminster Christian already had a healthy lead before a big third inning put Moore Haven away.
Wednesday afternoon in a Class 3A semifinal rematch, it took the Warriors until the fourth to finally pull away for a 11-3 victory at Dodgertown.
Westminster (22-9) plays for its second consecutive championship 1:35 p.m. Thursday against Lakeland Christian.
Moore Haven once again ends its season at the hands of the Warriors, finishing 23-6.
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“They came out and made some errors and we took advantage of it,” said Nikkia Benitez, who smashed a two-run homer to left that fueled a four-run fourth and broke Moore Haven’s spirit.
“It felt really good to hit that home run, pick up those runs. Now we have one more game.”
The Warriors took the lead twice only to see Moore Haven respond each time to make it 1-0 and 2-1.
Tied at 2 going into the fourth, the Warriors finally broke free by scoring four runs — not exactly matching their seven-run third inning last year, but achieving the same result.
Ashley Castano broke the tie with an RBI single then came home on Benitez’s home run. Westminster Christian went into the fifth up 6-2 after Carlin Labuzan scored on one of Moore Haven’s six errors.
“We finally caught up their pitching and settled in,” said coach Scott Doan, who is going for his third state title at Westminster since 2009.
“Once we scored the four runs it was natural that it deflated them. It was a tough game until we put the bat on the ball and put some things together.”
After Westminster’s four-run fourth, Moore Haven came unglued.
The Warriors put up five more runs in the fifth inning, helped along by four errors.
“We tried to score early but we were able to score some when we played small ball, had them throw the ball around,” said freshman first baseman Brooklyn Maguire, who pitched the seventh.
“They had the pressure on them to make plays and we capitalized on it. We have a young team, but I like our chances.”
MH 0 1 0 0 1 0 1 — 3 8 6
WC 1 0 1 4 5 0 X — 11 11 2
WP: Victoria Perez (12-6). WC 22-9, MH 23-6.
If you go
What: The state softball championships.
When: Through Saturday.
Where: Historic Dodgertown, 3901 26 St., Vero Beach.
Admission: $9 per session; Parking: $8 for cars, $25 for buses.
Wednesday’s results – Class 1A semifinals: Jay 6, Sneads 1; Chiefland 6, Bell 1; Class 3A semifinals: Lakeland Christian 4, Jacksonville University Christian 1; Westminster Christian 11, Moore Haven 3; Class 7A semifinals: Cantonment Tate 7, Bartow 1; Sarasota 3, St. Thomas Aquinas 1; Class 5A semifinals: Glen St. Mary Baker County 6, Belleview 4; Plantation American Heritage 4, Gulfport Boca Ciega 0.
Thursday’s schedule – Class 1A final: Jay vs. Chiefland, 11:05 a.m.; Class 3A final: Westminster Christian vs. Lakeland Christian, 1:35; Class 7A final: Sarasota vs. Tate 4:35; Class 5A final: American Heritage vs. Baker County 7:05.