Moore Haven is in the way, and that — historically — has been a good thing for Westminster Christian’s softball team.
Since coach Scott Doan took over the program in 2005, the Warriors have won a district title and at least 19 games in all 11 seasons.
The Warriors won their first state title in the Doan era in 2009, beating Moore Haven 11-0 in a state semifinal.
Last year, the Warriors won another state title, beating Moore Haven 12-0 in the championship game.
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This season, the Warriors (23-9) have made it back to Vero Beach for the Class 3A state semifinals, where they will find Moore Haven (23-5) waiting Wednesday.
The winner will face either Lakeland Christian (23-2) or Jacksonville’s University Christian (19-5) at 1:35 p.m. Thursday in Vero Beach.
In their history, the Warriors have won three state titles. The first one actually came against Doan, who was coaching Florida Christian at the time. The Warriors beat Florida Christian 9-7 in the ’97 state final.
Westminster might have had more trophies had it not been for Delray Beach’s American Heritage, which won three consecutive state titles from 2011 to 2013, eliminating the Warriors each year.
But when Heritage was moved up to Class 4A in 2014, that helped open the door for Westminster.
This year’s Warriors are led by freshmen pitchers: right-hander Victoria Perez (11-6) and left-hander Brooklyn Maguire (10-3).
Perez, who had food poisoning and missed the regional semifinals, has returned to health and is expected to pitch Wednesday, with Maguire ready in relief if needed.
“They are two totally different pitchers,” Doan said. “Victoria is a power type of girl. Brooklyn throws a lot more junk — she has a drop ball and a changeup that she likes a lot.”
Because Maguire is a left-hander, that could give the Warriors an edge. Doan said he can only remember seeing one lefty pitcher facing his team all season.
“Sometimes we use Brooklyn in the last couple of innings to give teams a different look,” Doan said.
Westminster’s top hitter is sophomore shortstop Ally Mena, who is hitting .568 with eight homers and 50 RBI. Sophomore center fielder Nikkia Benitez (.402, six homers, 37 runs) and Perez (.365, three homers and 28 RBI) are other keys to the offense.
Benitez is the only Westminster starter who is playing the same position as last year. Most of the other starters — six in total — graduated last season, which means Moore Haven will be getting a brand new team to face.
“They want us,” Doan said of Moore Haven. “We’re coming in with a target on our backs. And they have most of their team back. “But I’m confident in our abilities. Our girls understand that Moore Haven has a lot of motivation. We’re not taking them lightly.”
If you go
What: The state softball championships.
When: Wednesday through Saturday.
Where: Historic Dodgertown, 3901 26 St., Vero Beach.
Admission: $9 per session; Parking: $8 for cars, $25 for buses.
Defending state champions: Class 8A: Valrico Bloomingdale; 7A: Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas; 6A: Pembroke Pines Charter; 5A: Plantation American Heritage; 4A: Pensacola West Florida; 3A: Miami Westminster Christian; 2A: St. Pete Canterbury; 1A: Chiefland.
Wednesday’s schedule: Class 1A semifinals: Jay vs. Sneads, 10:35 a.m.; Bell vs. Chiefland, 11:50; Class 3A semifinals: Lakeland Christian vs. Jacksonville University Christian, 1:05; Westminster Christian vs. Moore Haven, 2:20; Class 7A semifinals: Bartow vs. Cantonment Tate, 3:35; St. Thomas Aquinas vs. Sarasota, 4:50; Class 5A semifinals: Glen St. Mary Baker County vs. Belleview, 6:05; Plantation American Heritage vs. Gulfport Boca Ciega, 7:20.
Thursday’s schedule: Class 1A final: 11:05 a.m.; Class 3A final: 1:35; Class 7A final: 4:35; Class 5A final: 7:05.
Friday’s schedule: Class 4A semifinals: Callahan West Nassau vs. Alachua Santa Fe, 10:35 a.m.; Coral Springs Charter vs. Fort Pierce Lincoln Park, 11:50 a.m.; Class 2A semifinals: St. Petersburg Canterbury vs. Monticello Aucilla Christian, 1:05; Boca Raton Grandview Prep vs. Belle Glade Glades Day, 2:20; Class 8A semifinals: Lithia Newsome vs. Oviedo Hagerty, 3:35; Coral Reef vs. Douglas, 4:50; Class 6A semifinals: Ocala Forest vs. Orange Park Oakleaf, 6:05; Stuart South Fork winner vs. Tampa Chamberlain, 7:20.
Saturday’s schedule: Class 4A final: 11:05 a.m.; Class 2A final: 1:35; Class 8A final: 4:35; Class 6A final: 7:05