Gulfport’s Boca Ciega came into Wednesday’s Class 5A state semifinal with a meager record yet stayed right with powerhouse American Heritage.
For a while, anyway.
One swing from Jenna Goodrich broke things open and was the difference in Heritage’s 4-0 victory. American Heritage (25-1-1) will play for its second state title in a row on Thursday night.
The Patriots will face Baker County, which thwarted a 2014 rematch after upsetting Belleview. Last year, Heritage rallied from a 10-2 deficit to top Belleville 11-10 to win the championship.
“We had bases loaded, it was a big opportunity, and I knew I needed to produce,’’ said Goodrich, whose grand slam over the left-field fence at Dodgertown broke a scoreless tie in the bottom of the third.
Boca Ciega, which had a losing record when the postseason began only to end 10-11, hung tight with the heavily favored Patriots — whose only loss came April 2 to Jupiter.
The Pirates held Heritage scoreless until the third when Goodrich cleared the bases on the first pitch she saw.
American Heritage coach Marty Cooper started junior pitcher Madison Canby, saving Goodrich (15-0) until the sixth inning and a likely start Thursday.
In five innings, Canby (10-1) gave up two hits, struck out eight and retired the final six batters she faced.
“I didn’t think we executed when we should have, although we were in control of the game because of our pitching,’’ said Cooper, who is going for his seventh state championship since taking over at Heritage in 2004.
“Madison did a great job and so did Jenna. It’s pretty tough to lose a game when you’re not giving up a run. But if we had executed better, it would have been a different outcome offensively.’’
Said Goodrich: “This is something we’ve talked about all season. We come in every morning, every day before practice saying we want a ring on our finger. You want everyone to get that experience.’’
BC 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 — 0 2 2
AH 0 0 4 0 0 0 X — 4 6 0
WP: Madison Canby (10-1). LP: Caylie VanAuken (8-9). AH 25-1-1, BC 10-11.
▪ Class 7A semifinal — Sarasota 3, St. Thomas Aquinas 1: The Raiders’ bid for a third consecutive state championship came to an end as Sarasota scored twice in the top of the first before eventually taking a three-run lead by the third.
Aquinas (22-7) had outscored its previous five opponents 72-0, but the Sailors (25-6) were in a different class.
Sarasota had runners in scoring position with one out when Halie Roberson’s sharp single over third bounded past the left fielder and into the corner. Two runs scored on the error.
In the third, Avery Miller doubled to left-center with two outs, then came home on a double to the same spot from Roberson.
Aquinas didn’t get its first hit until Thais Gonzalez reached on an infield single in the fourth and didn’t get its run until Olivia Saviskas came home on a two-out single by Ali Masocco.
The Raiders didn’t get much going in their final two trips to the plate, going down in order in the sixth and seventh.
“Honestly, we haven’t seen pitching like that since the Big 8 [tournament], and when you go a month without seeing it, it’s not good for you,’’ St. Thomas coach Bryan Baucom said. “They’re a good team. When you’re in the state semifinals, you need to get some breaks. We didn’t get any in that first inning. The positive is I lose one starter, we have a lot of kids back, and we gained a ton of experience. We should be back next year and compete again.”
Sar 2 0 1 0 0 0 0 — 3 6 1
STA 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 — 1 3 2
WP: Brittany Bendel (23-3). LP: Brooke Stock (10-2). Sar 25-6, STA 22-7.