Goleman’s softball team was one strike away from what would have been its first GMAC championship game appearance.
But that strike never came.
Palmetto saw to that, erasing a four-run deficit in the final inning to emerge with a 6-5 win Wednesday night. The Panthers will play defending champion Coral Reef for the GMAC title on Thursday at 6 p.m. at Palmetto Bay Park.
“Our girls [tend to] turn on the switch late,” Palmetto Coach Emilio Exposito said. “They love making it interesting.”
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Earlier Wednesday, Goleman upset Ferguson 7-5 for what the Goleman coaches said was the first GMAC win in school history. Palmetto advanced by eliminating American 7-4 in its quarterfinal game.
On the other side of the bracket, Southwest beat Krop 14-4, and Coral Reef defeated Terra by the same score. Coral Reef then scored seven first-inning runs to rout Southwest 12-0 on a two-hitter by Michelle Mesa.
Goleman, meanwhile, took a 1-0 lead on Palmetto in the fourth inning when catcher Angie Montalvo — who is set to sign with Nova Southeastern University next week — walked, stole second and third and scored on a wild pitch.
Palmetto tied the score in the top of the sixth when Victoria Rogers drilled a two-out, run-scoring single on a 3-2 pitch.
“[Rogers] was very sick the past two weeks,” Exposito said. “This was her first day back, and she had a phenomenal day at the plate.”
Goleman seemed to have the game secured when it score four runs in the bottom of the sixth. Montalvo had a run-scoring single, and Alexis Guzman added a two-run single. Guzman was playing her first game since a foul ball struck her on the forehead, giving her a concussion.
In the top of the seventh, Goleman pitcher Vicky Morales was leading 5-1, but her coaches said she got tired in that final inning.
Morales led 5-3 with two outs and had an 0-2 count on Isa Velazquez, who went the other way with Morales’ next pitch, lofting a soft fly ball that hit the right-field line for a two-run single.
Rogers then gave Palmetto a 6-5 lead with a run-scoring triple. Goleman threatened in the bottom of the seventh, putting runners on the corners with two outs, but Palmetto held on for the win.
Coral Reef, the defending state champion, is 2-0 against Palmetto this season and figures to get better on Monday, when star third baseman Carsyn Gordon is set to return from a spike wound on her left leg that required six stitches. Gordon is a Florida State recruit.
Denver Keller, Coral Reef’s standout second baseman and also a likely Division I recruit, is still out with a broken hand but is hoping to return in time for the playoffs.