Pines Charter freshmen Julia Ramos and Grasy Gomez may look the part in terms of their age.
But in softball experience they showed Wednesday that they are wise beyond their years.
Each came up with clutch hits in the eighth inning that lifted the Jaguars to a thrilling 5-3 victory over St. Johns Creekside in a Class 6A state semifinal at Historic Dodgertown.
Pines Charter (21-6-1) advanced to its third consecutive state championship game and will try to win its second state title in three years when it faces Eagle Lake Lake Region in the final 7 p.m. Thursday. Lake Region defeated Tampa Chamberlain 3-1 in the other semifinal.
“You can’t tell they’re freshmen just by looking at them?” joked Pines Charter coach Tom Fadul after the victory. “They sure aren’t playing like freshmen anymore.”
Ramos lifted a double to left center field that scored Gomez and Demi Iglesias to break a 3-3 tie in the top of the eighth. Gomez led off the inning with a sharp single. Gomez finished 2 for 3 with an RBI.
“All I could do on the at-bat was pretty much pray,” Ramos said. “It still shocks me. I was a whole mixture of feelings up there.”
Pines Charter ace Claire Blount ran into some trouble in the bottom half of the inning. But Blount, an experienced sophomore herself, made the big play when it counted most.
With a 3-2 count, two outs and the bases loaded, Blount threw a changeup that induced Creekside outfielder Ashley Chambers to check swing. Chambers made light contact hitting the ball softly back toward the mound and allowing Blount to field and throw her out to end the game.
“Bases loaded and full count and she nailed her with a changeup,” Fadul said. “There aren’t too many pitchers that would be comfortable throwing a changeup in that position.”
Blount, who gave up eight hits and four walks but only two earned runs, struck out five and helped Pines Charter get off to a good start with an early double. The Jaguars led 3-1 after an inning and a half.
Creekside knotted the score at 3 in the bottom of the fourth with a four-hit inning that included RBI singles from Amanda Haltiwanger and Alex Walton.
But Blount kept Creekside from taking the lead.
“I was just happy to get out of the inning,” Blount said. “Every inning was a struggle because they have very good hitters, but I just stayed focused. All the adrenaline we had during the game, it was just hard to stay calm. But I’m so happy we were able to pull through and win this.”
PPC 210 000 02 – 5 7 3
CRK 100 200 00 – 3 8 2
WP: Claire Blount. LP: Sami Hays.