A.J. Belans hit a two-run homer as the American Heritage Patriots were dominant in winning their second consecutive postseason game via the mercy rule to beat Pompano Beach 14-0 in the 5A regional semifinals Tuesday in Plantation.
Pitchers Jenna Goodrich and Madison Canby combined on a two-hitter for Heritage (22-6), which advances to the regional final. The Patriots will travel to either Eustis or Rockledge on Friday to battle for a spot in the state semifinals. Pompano ends its season at 17-6.
Heritage was already up 6-0 in the bottom of the first when Belans sent Jessica Abramson’s pitch over the fence in straightaway center. The Patriots shortstop would finish with two hits and three RBI.
“I was really just looking for a good pitch to get a base hit,” Belans said. “I made great contact. I’m just happy it helped the team get the win.”
The Patriots are picking the right time to peak as they seek their sixth state championship and second in three seasons.
“We’re playing great defense, we’re getting excellent pitching and, as you saw tonight, we’re hitting the ball really well,” Heritage coach Marty Cooper said. “I think we’re playing our best ball at the perfect time.”
Erin Sundook had both of the Tornadoes’ hits.
AH 8 0 6 0 — 14-9-1
POM 0 0 0 0 0 — 0-2-3
WP: Goodrich (10-2) LP: Adamson. Top Performers: Belans 2-3, HR, 3 RBI, Grobman 1-1, 2 RBI, M. Rini 1-2 2RBI, Sipos 1-1 2 RBI, Sundook 2-2.
“That’s the biggest game I’ve ever had,” Svekis said.
“Three home runs. That’s kind of unheard of. It was pretty incredible. It’s awesome because we were kind of struggling there for a little bit, but once we broke it open, the whole team picked it up.”
The smash was one of two home runs in the inning and the second of three two-run bombs in the game for Svekis.
The Raiders (29-2) dominated with Meghan King on the mound, holding the Patriots (19-8) to one hit and one unearned run while raking 12 hits.
“I’ve never seen anything like it in 20 years of coaching here,” Raiders coach Bryan Baucom said. “We hit the ball really well tonight as a team. We played good defensively and we pitched well.”
King (17-2) had eight strikeouts through 3.2 innings in the victory.
Svekis first 2-run shot came in the first inning, giving the Raiders a 2-0 edge. The Patriots lone hit came on a Chastity Velez double in the second inning. Velez moved to third on a sacrifice before scoring on a Raiders passed ball. King shut down the Patriots bats before Svekis snatched back momentum with her mortar to left field in the bottom of the third inning.
“The second one was close to being foul,” Svekis said. “That was one of the longest home runs I’ve ever hit in my life. Left field is the deepest part of our park and that thing cleared it by a mile.”
The Raiders racked up eight more runs in the inning, capped off by Svekis’ home run hat trick to add some mileage to the lead.
“It was a ball game until the big inning for them,” Patriots coach Sergio Fernandez said. “You have to tip your hat. We made some quality pitches on some of those homeruns and they still hit it out. Gwen’s performance speaks for itself. Their pitcher was outstanding. You can’t miss, but even when you don’t miss, they still find a way to get the job done. I’m proud of my girls. They battled but we ran up against a foe that is just remarkable.”
Jill Healy was 1-for-2 with a 2-run homer in the win behind Svekis’ 3-for-3, 6-RBI night. Taylor Hishan was 2-for-2 with a run scored in the victory. Andrea Rincon took the loss for the Patriots.
The Patriots play the winner of Dwyer and Monarch in a class 7A regional final.
“I think we have a chance to make history again,” Svekis said. “Last year we won states for the first time in 10 years and we have a chance to repeat like that team did. The team we have is definitely one of the most talented teams Aquinas has ever had so I think that even though our games haven’t been that challenging recently, I think we could definitely make a statement by winning two years in a row.”
With teammate Elise Calzad on first and one out in the last of the seventh, Laiacona laced a line drive to the fence in left center field. West Broward head coach Greg Hodges green-lighted Calzad around third who barely slid safe under the tag on a close play at the plate to end the contest. And with it comes a berth in West Broward’s second-ever regional final where the Bobcats (19-6) will host Coral Reef on Friday at 4 p.m.
“I was just thinking ‘it’s time to end this’ when I went up there,” said Laiacona who, after giving up a Mustang base hit to lead off the game, never allowed another one and in fact only allowed one other baserunner the rest of the game. “Nothing fancy, I was just looking for something I could get the bat on and drive, and fortunately [Mansfield] made one of the few mistakes she made all day and left it out over the plate for me.”
“[Mansfield] really pitched us tough in the district final (2-1 West Broward win) and [Tuesday] as well so it was a matter of who would make the big mistake first and fortunately it was them because I didn’t want my career to end today.”
The mistake she referred was a dropped fly ball in right field off the bat of Calzad with one out in the seventh to set up the game-winning hit, only the third of the game for West Broward.
McA 000 000 0 – 0 1 3
WB 000 000 1 – 1 3 1
WP: Jaclyn Laiacona 11-3; LP: Kaycee Mansfield 5-9. Top performers: WB: Laiacona 1-for-3, 2B, game-winning RBI