West Orange softball set for first round of state playoffs

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  • | 7:01 a.m. April 23, 2015
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ORLANDO — The West Orange softball team left no doubts as it powered its way through the Class 8A District 3 Tournament last week.

West Orange (26-1) outscored Ocoee and Olympia, in the semifinals and final, respectively, by a combined 21-1 tally.

For a team with its sights set about as high as possible and ranked No. 1 in the state across all classifications, it was an encouraging start to the postseason as the Warriors locked up a district title and homefield advantage in the April 16 regional quarterfinal game against Dr. Phillips, the runner-up in 8A-4.

“Last year we were (district) runner-up, and we wanted to come with a big win,” senior Kendall Arcia said. “We came here focused and ready to play. It was all about focus at practice.”

Focus would seem to be the key for a team that, on paper, almost always has more firepower than its opponents. Head coach Todd LaNeave, who has stressed upon his team the need to enjoy each game along its way, was pleased with the district title but also noted some room for improvement as the Warriors prepare for Thursday’s game.

“We need to start out fast and strong,” LaNeave said. “If you do something like that to a team, like we put up six in the first inning (against Olympia), it kind of demoralizes (the opponent). The other thing that we want to fix is ‘OK, we put six up in the first inning — we need to keep at ’em.’ We have a tendency to relax a little bit there.”

West Orange has scored fewer than five runs in a game only once this season, in a 3-1 win over Winter Springs, and also has elite pitching; meaning the Warriors’ hopes to get out of the regional bracket and into the state tournament will hinge on how effective they are fielding the ball and executing on defense.

“The main thing is, coach always says, ‘Defense wins games, offense sells tickets,’” senior Amanda Nikhazy, who homered twice against the Titans, said. “Practice is always three-fourths defense, and then, at the end, we’ll hit some. Our hitting is always good, so if we solidify our defense, I think we’ll be good.”

Beyond execution on defense, though, LaNeave is also working to make sure his girls, who have displayed poise throughout the season as they accumulate win after win, keep their cool when things get tough.

“They stuck with the same thing (in the district tournament),” La Neave said. “They played loose, played relaxed and let go.”


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