Pines Charter eyes second title

05/06/2014 12:01 AM

05/06/2014 12:36 AM

Outfielder Bridget Blount, shortstop Courtney Dart and catcher Jamie Gonzalez are the only remaining seniors from the 2012 Pembroke Pines Charter team that won what — so far — stands as the school’s only state softball championship.

None of the three have forgotten the emotions that came poring over them right after Gonzalez caught strike three to end the state final with a 1-0 win over Niceville.

“I saw a lot of confusion — or more amazement — on my teammates’ faces, like: ‘Did this really happen?’ ” Dart said. “I saw our center fielder [the since-graduated Cheyenne Willesord] sprint from [her position] to the mound to celebrate. I think she was there before the strikeout even happened.”

The Pines Charter girls will get another shot at experiencing that jubilation this week when they bid for the Class 6A title in Vero Beach. Their quest begins with Wednesday’s semifinal against Creekside, and the final is set for Thursday at 7 p.m.

Pines Charter (20-6) is led by sophomore pitcher Claire Blount, who is 16-6 with nine shutouts and a 0.54 ERA. In 140 innings, she has allowed 70 hits and 21 walks while striking out 168.

She is also the team’s leading hitter at .484, but it is her big sister, Bridget, who has given Pines Charter an emotional boost.

Bridget made first-team All-State last season, earning praise from Pines Charter Coach Tom Fadul as his “top athlete.”

But Bridget was injured while playing travel ball last summer.

“I had felt pain in my shoulder for years,” she said. “But I kept playing on it until last summer when I made a throw from center field to home, and it felt like my shoulder had been ripped out. I never felt pain like that before.”

Blount had surgery Jan. 10 to repair a torn labrum. She was supposed to be out for the season, but Blount returned six games ago. And even though she is struggling to return to form, her presence has inspired her teammates.

“She was determined to come back by the playoffs, and she pushed herself to extreme limits to make it,” said Dart, who is hitting .419 and leads the team with 25 runs scored. “We’re excited for her.”

Gonzalez, the team’s cleanup hitter who will play for St. Thomas University next season, said the girls have tried to make sure Blount does not get down on herself while she works her way back.

“You can tell she really wants to hit the ball, and we all wanted her to be ready right away,” Gonzalez said. “But that hasn’t been the case.

“As soon as we see a little sadness in her, we say: ‘Look, it’s going to come naturally. Just make your corrections, and make the right swing.’ ”

Fortunately for Pines Charter, younger players have stepped up to fill the injury void.

Perhaps the biggest surprise has been freshman center fielder Grasy Gomez, who is hitting .405 and leads the team with six homers. No other teammate has more than two homers.

Still, it could come back to Bridget’s little sister on the mound.

“Claire is very smart with the batters, and she moves the ball around depending on where they set up,” Fadul said. “I don’t want to get into it too much because [opposing teams] will be scouring the newspaper.

“But let’s just say she has several pitches.”

And if she makes enough good ones, perhaps Pines Charter will be celebrating on the mound again by Thursday night.

TUESDAY’S SCHEDULE

BASEBALL

Region 4-8A semifinal: Miami High at Flanagan, 7

Region 3-8A semifinal: Taravella at Douglas, 4

Region 4-7A semifinal: American at St. Thomas Aquinas, 7

Region 4-6A semifinal: Pines Charter at Okeechobee, 7

Region 4-5A semifinal: Cardinal Gibbons at Archbishop McCarthy, 7

Region 4-4A semifinal: Chaminade at North Broward Prep, 7

Region 4-3A semifinal at Tequesta Trace Park: Westminster Christian at Sagemont, 3:30

Region 4-3A semifinal: Westminster Academy at Coral Springs Christian, 4

Region 4-2A semifinal: Boca Christian at Zion Lutheran, 4

BOYS’ VOLLEYBALL

State first round play-in: Mourning at McArthur, 7

State first round play-in: Archbishop McCarthy at St. Thomas Aquinas, 7

State first round play-in: Taravella at Boca Raton, 7

FLAG FOOTBALL

State second round play-in at Milander Park: Mater Academy vs. Archbishop McCarthy, 7

State second round play-in: Coconut Creek at Delray Beach Atlantic, 7

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