- March 19, 2017
For the third time in as many years, the West Orange softball team is headed to Historic Dodgertown in Vero Beach for a state semifinal.
And, for the third time in as many years, the Warriors (23-7) had to go through Port Orange’s Spruce Creek Hawks to advance.
After beating the Hawks by a score of 2-0 in 2016 and again in 2017, West Orange needed extra-innings to top Spruce Creek May 11, winning 3-0 in eight innings.
West Orange ace Landry Newgent and Spruce Creek pitcher Tiana Hernandez dueled through seven scoreless innings before the Warriors pushed across three runs in the top of the eighth — with the first coming by way of a one-out, bases-loaded walk of Lexi Mosur.
Brenna Wise followed that by driving in Lexie Blair on a sacrifice fly to center field that made it 2-0 in favor of the Warriors. Helping to ice the victory was an RBI-single from Alli Sartini that drove in Bryce Adkinson.
After that, West Orange looked to Newgent to close the door, which she did with authority — finishing a complete-game, eight-inning outing that saw the Hawks tally just four hits.
“(Newgent) seemed to really have the hitters’ number,” West Orange coach Kelsey LaNeave said. “Our thought (during the playoffs) has been that if we’re going lose a ball game, we’re going to lose it with our number one pitcher on the mound.”
An inning before Newgent closed the door on Spruce Creek, the Hawks (19-11) nearly defeated the Warriors in walk-off fashion if not for the arm of left-fielder Cerynn Siemer.
When Spruce Creek’s Mackenzie Childs doubled to left, it looked as though it might bring in Anna Carter. Instead, Siemer made a throw to catcher Julia Sniffen that saved the Warriors’ season and set the stage for a dramatic eighth-inning that booked her and her teammates a trip to Vero Beach.
The victory is the 11th consecutive for West Orange, an exclamation point on a hot-streak that began in early April starting with a 12-2 win over Wekiva April 5. Before that, the Warriors had been 12-7 with a handful of district losses to their credit. After graduating several key contributors from the teams that won back-to-back state championships in 2016 and 2017, West Orange had several new faces in new roles.
“We were throwing people in and giving them opportunities to see how it was all going to shake out,” Warriors coach Todd LaNeave said. “It wasn’t until three weeks ago, maybe a month ago, that things started to settle in. In years’ past, we would have a better idea of who the key players would be — this year we didn’t really know. We knew a handful, but the rest was undetermined.”
Added to the on-the-field adversity West Orange was facing was some adversity off of it, too. In mid-March, head coach Todd LaNeave suffered a heart attack and was sidelined for several weeks while he recovered. In the interim, Kelsey LaNeave assumed the role of head coach.
Todd LaNeave has gradually returned to the dugout, and now the father-daughter coaching combo will game-plan for Metro Conference-peer Timber Cree (24-5) — the Warriors’ opponent in the FHSAA Class 9A State Semifinals this Saturday*** at Historic Dodgertown in Vero Beach.
And, where it was unclear whether West Orange would even make it out of its district, anything seems possible as the Warriors are — once again — one of just four teams left in the state in their classification.
“The girls are really confident,” Kelsey LaNeave said. “It’s been a season of battling and we’ve had to come from behind quite a bit — those (tense) situations aren’t really scaring us much, anymore.”
*** Editor's note: This story has been updated to reflect the FHSAA's announcement Monday morning that the schedule for the softball championships had been altered this week due to weather. For more information, visit FHSAA.org.