Westminster Christian softball coach Scott Doan could only watch in shock.
His Warriors team rarely ever makes three errors in one game, let alone in one inning. But that’s exactly what happened Thursday in the top of the first inning that gave Chaminade-Madonna an early two-run lead in a Region 4-4A semifinal.
But thanks to some veteran leadership, great pitching and the long ball, it was no problem for the Warriors as they calmly battled back and cruised to a 6-2 win over the Lions at Palmetto Bay Park.
Westminster (20-5) advances to Tuesday’s regional final where the Warriors, after winning a state title two years ago only to come up one run short in last year’s state title game, (a 6-5 loss to Lakeland Christian) will seek their third consecutive trip to the state final four in Vero Beach when they head to North Fort Lauderdale to take on Calvary Christian at 4 p.m.
“I don’t exactly know what happened there, because that’s very uncharacteristic of us to do that,” Doan said of the miscues. “But to their credit, the girls didn’t panic, settled in and played solid the rest of the way.”
And it was primarily thanks to home-run derby night for the Warriors, who belted three home runs over the fence and missed a fourth by inches.
And it was 2015 Miami Herald Player of the Year Ally Mena who led the way. Mena entered the game with 11 home runs this season, one short of Westminster’s record, and left as the new record holder two hours later.
Mena swatted a first-inning home run over the left field fence to cut her team’s deficit in half and then belted another solo shot over the center-field fence in the fourth for No. 13 this year, surpassing Kaitlyn Charlton’s 12 in 2014.
“I knew about it [the record], but going up to bat in a game like this, you’re not thinking about something like that,” said Mena, who is only a junior but already has committed to Ole Miss. “I know I’m a good hitter, so you just go up there with the idea of hitting it hard somewhere and fortunately I knocked two of them over the fence to help our team [Thursday], because the important thing was to find a way to win, especially after that rough first inning.”
The other big hitter for Westminster was Nikkia Benitez, who might have had the biggest swing of the night.
Thanks to a two-out error in the second by the Lions (14-10) when a routine infield pop was dropped by the infielder, Benitez came up one batter later and, with an 0-2 count and the bases loaded, clobbered a tape-measure grand slam well over the center-field fence to put Westminster up 5-2. Benitez belted another one to center in the fourth that hit just inches below the top of the fence and had to settle for a double.
Pitcher Victoria Perez, unrattled by her team’s loose defense in the first inning, settled down and retired 18 of the last 20 Chaminade batters from the second inning on to record the win.
“I was just thinking just stay calm and keep getting them to hit ground balls,” Perez said. “Because even though that was a rough first inning, I have confidence in my defense that they’ll make the outs and that’s exactly what happened.”
Said Doan: “We know we can’t do that again though because the level of competition only gets tougher the deeper you go and Calvary Christian is a very good team and we’ll need to be ready to go and do our thing.”