With eight seniors who have been eliminated in regional finals the past three seasons, this year’s Westminster Christian softball team, hungry to finally make some noise in Vero Beach, has a mantra that it follows: “On a Mission.”
On Wednesday, the Warriors proved they can beat a state-caliber team, taking down defending Class 8A state champion Coral Reef 11-7 at Palmetto Bay Park.
For Westminster (10-3), which has put together a difficult schedule this season to prepare itself for the rigors of the postseason, it was a mini-mission en route to the greater mission of a state title.
“That’s our goal. It’s take it game by game, one step at a time, chip away if we have to get runs on the board. We want to go up the road this season, get that ring,” said senior starting pitcher Kelli Kleis, who pitched a complete game, giving up seven runs on four hits and eight walks while striking out nine. “We’re on a mission. We’re going to accomplish that mission.”
Kleis (6-2), who got some early run support with five Warriors runs in the first inning, was solid through the first five frames but let Coral Reef creep back into the game in the sixth.
With four runs already across in the frame, the bases loaded and two outs, Coral Reef had cleanup hitter Sarah Ortiz up representing the go-ahead run in a 10-7 game. Carsyn Gordon, who was at first, then got picked off between first and second. The throw to first by Westminster catcher Kaitlyne Musa had Barracuda speedster Kylan Becker bolt home from third, but the throw back to the plate beat her, ending the threat and taking the bat out of Ortiz's hands.
“It’s an important win for us to kind of measure where we’re at,” said coach Scott Doan, who has over 500 wins to his name. “They’re the big dogs, and we’re trying to catch up.”
Offensively, centerfielder Kia Benitez had four RBI on her 2-for-3 night that included a walk. First baseman Carlin Labuzan went 3 for 4 with two triples and a double, and shortstop Caitlin Charlton also had a three-hit game — two singles and a double.
CR 1 0 2 0 0 4 0 — 7 4 0
WC 5 1 0 3 1 1 X—11 13 1
WP: Kleis (6-2). LP: Michelle Mesa (6-2).