With the famed Blue Angels putting on an abbreviated air show above the Dodgertown complex Friday, St. Thomas Aquinas seemed a tad distracted.
Once the jets landed at the nearby municipal airport and the skies quieted down, the Raiders’ offense kicked into gear.
Aquinas rolled into the Class 7A state softball title game by scoring twice in both the fourth and sixth innings to top Tate 5-0 in a semifinal game.
The Raiders (29-2) will defend their title Saturday at 4:35 p.m. in a rematch of last year’s state semifinal game.
Aquinas topped Harmony 1-0 in a game that needed nine innings to complete. Aquinas is going for its fourth fast-pitch title in program history.
Topping the Longhorns again could be a tall task.
“I definitely know that’s been our goal all year — not only to win the state championship but we wanted to beat St. Thomas in the state championship,” Harmony coach Jeff Fiorelli said.
“It’s ours to win. That’s where we feel we wanted to be.”'
The Vero Beach Air Show will be finishing up by the time Aquinas and Harmony hit the field on Saturday so the aerial distraction shouldn’t be a concern.
“When that one came up and pulled a Tom Cruise, I almost [died],”' coach Bryan Baucom joked about Friday’s Blue Angels practice. “If you were hitting, could you imagine taking a swing when those went by? It could come at a crucial time.”'
Added catcher Gwen Svekis: “I thought I was going to have a heart attack every time one went over.”
Tate, from the Pensacola area as are the Blue Angels, looked to score a rare run on Aquinas starter Meghan King (19-2) in the first inning.
With two outs, the Aggies (24-5) put runners off a pair of singles. King, who has given up one run in the entire postseason, got out of the jam with a groundout to third.
The Raiders picked up the lone run they needed in the second when Taylor Hishon tripled with two outs and came home on a single Victoria Stock dropped down the right field line.
“It was tough to see us only get two runs against Dwyer so most of us stayed late and really worked on our hitting,” said Stock, who added an RBI later from the eight spot in the lineup.
“One or two is usually enough, but you always want more. You want to dominate.”
King, who came into the day with an ERA of just 0.27, got into a zone after that and picked up another shutout. King has allowed five runs all season.
“I was a little shaky to start, but when we got those runs, I had the confidence to back my team up,” King said. “I needed that.”
Aquinas’ offense all but put things away in the fourth, loading the bases off a single, walk and error to lead things off. Stock's single with one out scored one run; an infield single from Brianna Stella brought in the second.
The Raiders then added two in the sixth for good measure. With runners in scoring position with one out, Hishon came home on an error at third to make it 4-0. Later, Thais Gonzalez’s infield single brought in Brenisha Bannister for Aquinas’ final run of the day.
Aquinas has outscored its opponents 61-1 in six postseason wins. Miami American is the lone team to get a run off King and the Raiders in the playoffs.
“I’m excited about Saturday,” Baucom said. “We’ll be ready. It’s the state championship game. My kids have been there and they know how to win it. I think we’ll be all right.”
STA 0 1 0 2 0 2 0 — 5 7 1
Tate 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 — 0 5 4