Miami-Dade High Schools

Miami Palmetto gives up big inning in another loss at state softball

Miami Palmetto HS Jayla Digennaro buries herself in her arm with disappointment after they were defeated by West Orange HS in the FHSAA 9A Girls Softball State semifinal in Vero Beach, May 19, 2017.
Miami Palmetto HS Jayla Digennaro buries herself in her arm with disappointment after they were defeated by West Orange HS in the FHSAA 9A Girls Softball State semifinal in Vero Beach, May 19, 2017. ctrainor@miamiherald.com

In three postseason games leading up to the state final four, Palmetto had surrendered a grand total of seven runs.

In the second inning of Friday's state semifinal at Dodgertown, Winter Garden's West Orange almost matched that.

West Orange rolled into Saturday's Class 9A state title game after sending 11 batters to the plate in a six-run second inning which pretty much ended Palmetto's hope at a championship run.

The nationally-ranked Warriors added more runs, of course, winning 11-0 in a game called after six innings.

West Orange ace Lauren Mathis is a Georgia commitment who had won 13 games despite fighting a shoulder injury and struck out the first three Palmetto batters she faced.

The Panthers, who end their season 27-3 and came into the night ranked 18th nationally, got a few good licks in on Mathis yet did not get much going.

Mathis left after four innings; she gave up one hit and struck out eight.

“That is one of the best pitchers I have seen,” said Palmetto coach Emilio Exposito, whose team was back at Vero for the second consecutive year and was looking for the school's first softball title since 2008.

“She was outstanding. We spoke about laying off her rise ball all week and we just couldn’t do it. She was on her game and she is ready to move onto the next level. And she will dominate there.”

After giving up four runs in the seventh in last year's semifinal loss to Tampa Alonso, the Panthers surrendered 10 runs in a three-inning span at Vero after the Warriors put up a six-spot in the second on Friday evening.

West Orange got things going when Cassie Rivard was walked with the bases loaded.

Lexie Blair, headed to Michigan, then drove in two on a double to left-center with two more runs coming across on a fielding miscue and the rout was on.

West Orange added three in the fourth and added two on an inside-the-park home run to right in the sixth.

Palmetto had come into the state final four by outscoring regional foes Coral Gables, Coral Reef and Southridge by a combined 26-7.

The Panthers have four starters returning with Exposito already looking ahead to next year’s run to Vero.

“I am beyond proud of this group, we had an outstanding year,” Exposito said.

“The girls have had a taste of being here. We will be back. The group coming back is hungry. They want to see this thing through.”

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