WINTER GARDEN — When senior Sarah Kollas launched a two-run homer over the left field fence in the top of the first inning, it had the feel of a statement that the Dr. Phillips Panthers — who were heavy underdogs going into the Class 8A Region 1 Quarterfinals against the No. 1 West Orange Warriors — would not go down without a fight.
If that statement was loud, the one the Warriors made in response, in the bottom half of the inning, was louder.
West Orange scored seven runs — all of which coming with two outs — to take a 7-2 lead it would not relinquish Thursday night en route to a 12-2 victory in six innings.
"We've been in that position before and they always seem to respond," head coach Todd LaNeave said, referring to the early deficit his team faced. "I was calling pitches — I made some mistakes there calling some pitches that I probably shouldn't have. (Starting pitcher Kelsey Morrison) put them where she was supposed to and they hit them well.
"To put up seven (runs) with two outs ... I was extremely impressed with that."
Morrison would give up no other runs after the homer by Kollas and got the complete game win for West Orange.
Offensively, the Warriors (27-1) were led by freshman Lexie Blair, who went a perfect 5-for-5 at the plate, driving in three runs while scoring twice, herself.
West Orange will now hit the road on Tuesday to take on Boone in the 8A Region 2 Semifinals, which defeated Olympia in a close one on Thursday, 2-1. Though the Warriors defeated the Braves earlier this season, 11-0, LaNeave said he expected Boone to be improved and that his team will have its hands full with Braves ace Chase Cassady.
"We're going to continue to prepare, regardless of who it is, the way we prepare for everybody," LaNeave said. "(Boone is) rolling right now. We've got a battle on our hands."