Westminster Christian’s softball team has spent the past year working to earn a chance at redemption.
The Warriors came up painfully short of winning back-to-back state championships for the first time in school history last year with a 6-5 loss to Lakeland Christian.
Westminster returned all but one senior and led by a prolific lineup is back in Vero Beach this week looking to lock up its second state crown in three years and fourth overall.
The Warriors are one of six South Florida teams along with Palmetto, Western, St. Thomas Aquinas, American Heritage and Coral Springs Charter that will be participating in this weekend’s state tournament.
Westminster Christian (21-5) is the only team among the group that will start Wednesday when they face Montverde Academy (21-6) at 4:50 p.m. at Historic Dodgertown. The rest of the South Florida contingent is slated to begin Friday.
The Warriors enter the tournament hitting .358 as a team with 31 home runs and 189 runs scored.
Junior infielder and Ole Miss commit Ally Mena leads the group with a .416 batting average and 40 RBI. One of her most impressive stats is her 13 home runs, which broke a school record.
Mena, along with junior outfielder Nikkia Benitez (.477, seven home runs and 34 RBI) have provided a formidable punch in the Warriors’ lineup along with junior Adriana Otero (.368, two home runs, eight doubles and 16 RBI).
A pair of sophomore pitchers — Victoria Perez and Brooklyn Maguire — has led Westminster inside the circle.
Perez is 13-5 in 99 innings with 77 strikeouts and a 1.77 ERA. Maguire has provided a solid complement, going 6-0 in 41 innings with 36 strikeoutts and a 1.88 ERA.
Both have also been solid at the plate as Perez is second on the team in home runs with eight and Maguire is hitting .391 with 26 runs scored.
Westminster Christian recorded its 10th consecutive 20-win season and 24th overall, along with its 15th consecutive district title in 25 seasons guided by veteran coach Scott Doan.
The Warriors appear to be a strong favorite going into the tournament as the only team in the Class 4A bracket that has won a state title. Montverde Academy last reached state in 2013 and has a young squad made up of only four seniors.
Should Westminster Christian advance, it would face either Jacksonville Trinity Christian or Fort Myers Bishop Verot on Thursday at 4:35 p.m.
After each led their respective teams to repeat state championships, Belen Jesuit’s Pablo Kurzan and Ransom Everglades’ Sofia Carrera-Justiz were named the Florida Dairy Farmers Association’s Boys’ and Girls’ Players of the Year.
Kurzan finished his junior season with 79 goals, 23 assists and 31 steals. Among his highlights was a match-winning goal with 31 seconds remaining against Boca Raton St. Andrew’s in the state semifinals, which led Belen to an 8-7 win.
Carrera-Justiz, a three-sport standout at Ransom, finished with 83 goals and 19 assists, and scored 12 goals overall in the state tournament as she led the Raiders to their seventh state title in eight seasons.
Her coach, Eric Lefebvre, who has coached Ransom to all seven championships, was named Girls’ Coach of the Year. Belen’s Jimmy Aguilera, who guided the Wolverines to their second state title in a row, was named the Boys’ Coach of the Year.
Four local players have been invited to the 38th FACA All Star Baseball Classic in Sebring on May 27-29.
They are Gulliver pitcher/infielder Javy Valdes, Belen Jesuit outfielder Christian Del Castillo, Florida Christian pitcher Christian Coipel and Palmer Trinity infielder Blake Miller.
Region 4-9A semifinal: Columbus at Southwest, 4
Region 4-9A semifinal: Coral Park at Hialeah Gardens, 4
Region 3-9A semifinal: West Broward at Douglas, 4
Region 4-8A semifinal at Miller Park Delray: Coral Glades vs. Delray Atlantic, 7
Region 4-8A semifinal at Walker Park: Mater Academy vs. Westland Hialeah, 4
Region 4-7A semifinal at Flamingo Park Pines: Belen vs. Pines Charter, 7
Region 4-6A semifinal: Archbishop McCarthy at American Heritage, 7
Region 4-5A semifinal: Gulliver at Monsignor Pace, 7
Region 4-5A semifinal: Somerset Academy at Pompano Beach, 7
Region 4-4A final at Gibson Park: Calvary Christian vs. SLAM, 4
Region 4-3A final: Sagemont at Fort Pierce John Carroll, 7
Region 4-2A final Santaluces Sports Complex: Miami Christian vs. Lake Worth Trinity Christian, 6:30
State play-in: Archbishop McCarthy at Pine Crest, 6
State play-in: Mourning at South Broward, 7
State play-in: Columbus at SLAM, 7
State play-in: Killian at Belen Jesuit, 7
State play-in: Monarch at Boca Raton, 7
Last week’s best performances in Broward County
TEAM OF THE WEEK
Brooke Stock scattered three hits and Meagan Patterson went 3 for 3 with two runs and two RBI as the St. Thomas Aquinas softball team (22-4) defeated Cooper City 5-0 in the Region 4-8A final.
ATHLETES OF THE WEEK
Tony Alfonso, Pine Crest, boys’ volleyball: Alfonso had 19 kills and 12 digs to lead the Panthers over rival Cardinal Gibbons in five sets.
Jan'Taijah Ford, Northeast, girls’ track: Ford finished first in 400 and second in the 200 to lead the Hurricanes to runner-up in the Region 4-3A championships.
Thomas Geddis, Blanche Ely, boys’ track: Geddis won the 200 to lead the Tigers to the boys’ Region 4-3A title.
Natalia Muller, Piper, flag football: Muller threw four touchdowns passes to lead the Bengals to a 24-0 upset of Western in the District 12-2A championship game.
Ben Rozenblum, Calvary Christian, baseball: Rozenblum hit a grand slam to lead the Eagles past Florida Christian 6-1 in the Region 4-4A regional semifinals.
Brooke Langston, American Heritage, softball: Langston went 2 for 4 with a run, RBI, and stolen base to lead the Patriots (24-2) over Rockledge 4-1 in the Region 4-6A finals.
Allison Muraskin, Coral Springs Charter, softball: Muraskin went 2 for 4 with a homer and three RBI and struck out 11 as the defending state champion Panthers (23-3) beat Miami Gulliver 11-1 in the Region 4-5A final.
Patrick Sastre, Westminster Academy, boys’ track: Sastre won the 800 title to help the Lions finish runner up at the Region 4-1A championships.
Sammy Infante, Sagemont, baseball: Infante went 2 for 3 with a run to lead the Lions over Jupiter Christian 4-3 in the Region 4-3A Finals.
Andreina Martinez, Cardinal Gibbons, girls’ track: Martin cleared 10-6 to win the pole vault at the Region 4-2A championships.
Last week’s best performances in Miami-Dade County
TEAMS OF THE WEEK
The Palmetto softball team clinched its first trip to state in four years after beating American in the regional final behind a two-hitter from Brittney Barczak. Lauren Margolis’ walk-off hit in the ninth inning helped the Panthers survive its regional semifinal against Coral Reef 9-8 as well.
The Westminster Christian softball team advanced to state for the third consecutive season. Brooklyn Maguire doubled, homered and scored twice to lead a 12-3 rout of Calvary Christian in the Class 4A regional finals.
ATHLETES OF THE WEEK
Andy Arguelles, Columbus, baseball: Arguelles pitched a complete game, striking out seven to lead the Explorers to a 5-1 win over South Dade in the Region 4-9A quarterfinals.
Erik Estevez, Coral Park, baseball: Estevez went 3 for 4 with a pair of runs scored and two RBI to lead the Rams to a 12-10 win over Hialeah Gardens after they trailed 9-2 through three innings.
Tyresse Cooper, American, boys’ track and field: Cooper won the 100, 200 and 400 meters at the Region 4-4A meet.
Tiara McMinn, Jackson, girls’ track and field: McMinn won the 100 and 300 hurdles and the high jump at the Region 4-2A meet.
Daniel Theus, SLAM, boys’ volleyball: Theus had 16 kills and eight digs to lead the Titans to the District 13 championship over Hialeah-Miami Lakes.
ANDRE C. FERNANDEZ