Winning consecutive state softball championships isn’t unprecedented or uncommon by any means. That doesn’t mean it’s easy to do.
Westminster Christian found that out Thursday afternoon.
The Warriors went down swinging in the Class 3A title game but left the bases loaded in a 6-5 loss to Lakeland Christian at Dodgertown.
Westminster Christian came into the bottom of the seventh down three but had the winning run on second when Adriana Otero popped up to third to end it.
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The Warriors end the season 22-10; Lakeland Christian finishes 25-2 with its first state title in school history.
“I was real proud of how the girls didn’t quit,” said Westminster coach Scott Doan, whose team won the state title in 2014 in a mercy-rule romp over Moore Haven.
“We had a lot of confidence we were going to get things done. It just didn’t work out that way. … The last one was a pop-up and [Otero] just missed it. It was a good pitch to hit. If that thing goes down, we’re getting the gold.”
Although Westminster Christian took the initial lead at 1-0 in the bottom of the first, the Vikings battled back and scored two in the third.
Lakeland Christian never trailed again.
“I thought we would keep it going, keep our energy going,” said Victoria Perez, who hit a solo homer in the fifth to pull the Warriors within a run at 3-2.
Westminster Christian looked to put the Vikings away early, with Nikkia Benitez coming home on a sacrifice fly from Ally Mena with two outs in the first.
Lakeland Christian countered in the second and took the lead with two runs. Maddy Oxendine led off the inning with a walk and eventually scored on an infield single from Camryn Wineinger.
The go-ahead run came when Shannon Burke came home on a throwing error from the Westminster catcher.
The Vikings added another run in the fourth on a run-scoring single from Caroline Watson, but the Warriors got back in it on Perez’s shot to left.
Then came the sixth when Lakeland Christian scored twice to take its first three-run lead of the game.
In the top of the sixth, Lakeland Christian threatened to break things completely open as it had the bases loaded after putting up two runs to make it 5-2.
Brooklyn Maguire replaced Perez in the circle and got out of the jam with a fielder’s choice and a flyout.
Westminster Christian got back into it in the bottom of the sixth with Mena getting a triple and coming home on an RBI single by Maguire.
The Warriors had runners on and one out after cutting their deficit to two, but pitcher Kristen Beachem put down the next two batters to end the threat.
Lakeland Christian made it a three-run game again in the seventh as Abby Burton came home on another throwing error.
In the bottom of the seventh Mena singled in Ashley Castano with two outs in the seventh to make it 6-4. Perez then walked to load the bases, with Benitez coming home on an infield hit by Maguire to keep things going and give the Warriors hope they could pull this thing out.
“We just made too many mistakes, and it put us in a hole,” Mena said. “We’re a good team, and we’ll be back next year.”
The Warriors retooled after last year’s championship and should return everyone but one senior. With the experience gleaned from this run to the state final, expect Westminster to return next season.
“They just have to keep working hard this summer, not just play but get better,” Doan said. “A lot of these girls have never been in a situation like this, not only in a game but a championship game. It’s a great experience and should help us in the future moving forward. Hopefully, we’ll be back next year.”
LC 002-102-1 -- -- 6-11-1
WC: 100-101-2 -- -- 5-8-4
WP: Kristen Beachem (12-0); LP: Victoria Perez (12-7). LC 25-2, WC 22-10.