Don’t say the numbers “5” and “4” around the Cypress Bay softball team.
That was the final score in 2012, when the Lightning lost a regional final in extra innings to Jupiter. And that was also the score last year, when the Lightning lost to Coral Reef in the Class 8A state final.
The Cypress Bay softball program has never tasted the ultimate victory, losing both times it has made it to a state final, and has fallen by one run in its past three elimination defeats.
That’s a lot of disappointment.
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But nothing was worse than last season, when the Lightning rallied with four runs in its last inning and had a runner on third when the final out — a strikeout — was recorded.
“As soon as the game ended, everyone looked at each other in disbelief,” said senior infielder Maddie Gott, a starter at second base last season. “Everyone was quiet. No one knew what to say.
“We had worked our butts off all season and to not come home with a gold medal was heartbreaking.”
Lonny Shapiro, in his 11th season as Cypress Bay’s coach, returns six starters from last season, including three who made first-team All-Broward: Gott, who will play in the Ivy League for Columbia next season; senior pitcher Sarah Maloney and junior outfielder Lexi DiEmmanuele, a Boston College recruit.
In addition, Olivia Gott, Maddie’s younger sister, returns as the team’s catcher and a second-team All-Broward player. And sophomore infielder Maggie Scott, who made third-team All-Broward, is also back.
Maloney, 8-3 with a 1.31 ERA last season, was the starting pitcher in both of those 5-4 elimination games. She was lifted after three innings in last season’s state final.
“I shouldn’t have played that game — I was tired,” said Maloney, who is not sure if she will play softball in college. “I made the wrong choice, and I was disappointed in myself.”
Maloney, who describes herself as a fierce competitor, has dealt with a variety of injuries. Last season, she had a sprained rotator cuff in her pitching shoulder.
And because of wear and tear from pitching for her club team over the summer, she enters this season with a sprained right hamstring and a right knee that will require surgery.
“I’ve been told I have a high pain tolerance,” said Maloney, who plans to have the surgery in July after her high school and club seasons are over. “The [leg injuries] affect my drag leg, which is the one I push off of and where most of my power comes from.
“But I don’t like to take breaks, especially when my team needs me.”
Cypress Bay really needs her. Not only is she talented, but also the Lightning has a small roster with only 13 players, which is unusual for such a successful program at such a large school of more than 4,700 students.
Last year, Cypress Bay had 16 players. But after graduation losses, there are no newcomers on this year’s team, and there is no junior varsity.
It’s just those 13 players who have to make that number lucky and avoid injuries and illnesses.
“We are stretched thin,” Gott said. “We don’t have a backup at half of our positions. That’s one of our biggest worries at practice — we can’t risk anyone gettinh hurt, and we can’t have someone ineligible because of a low GPA.
“We all have to eat right, stay healthy and clean. But it will work out.”