The Warriors scored four runs in the bottom of the sixth inning to end the Class 9A State Semifinal by mercy rule. West Orange will play in the Class 9A State Final at 8:05 p.m. Saturday.
VERO BEACH In her first at-bat of the Class 9A State Semifinal, West Orange sophomore Lexie Blair smacked a triple.
A few pitches later, senior Sam Golden successfully bunted Blair in on a squeeze-play, giving the Warriors a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the first.
That run would be the first of 11 for West Orange — three of which were scored by Blair — as the Warriors scored at least one run every time they came in to bat against Western High. A two-run double by Amanda Fleming in the bottom of the sixth ended the game early by mercy-rule, 11-1, advancing West Orange (29-1) to its first state championship game since the program won it all in 1994.
"Our goal we talked about before the game was putting up the first run," Blair said. "When I hit that triple, I knew right away we were going to get that run."
The well-executed squeeze-bunt by Golden gave the Warriors a lead they would never relinquish and helped calm the nerves for a roster that has only two players who were on the team the last time West Orange advanced to the Final Four.
"Once we got rolling and we got that first run on the board it was like 'okay — here we go and let's get some more,'" head coach Todd LaNeave said.
Lauren Mathis allowed just one run in six innings of work. The unearned run came in the top of the third as Sydney Bates drove in Kayla Leibman, who had reached base by way of an errant throw. Mathis allowed just two hits, total, and struck out 11 batters.
"Once we got rolling and we got that first run on the board it was like 'okay — here we go and let's get some more.'"
Todd LaNeave, coach
Meanwhile, her teammates added a run each in the second and third innings before blowing the game open with three runs in the fourth and four in the sixth to end the contest early. Western committed six errors, with the Warriors' aggressive style putting them in position to capitalize on each of those mistakes.
"We don't want to let up on a team," Blair said. "They're a good team and they came all this way for a reason."
In total, six different Warriors combined for 10 hits on the day.
West Orange will play in the Class 9A State Championship at 8:05 p.m. Saturday against the winner of the opposite state semifinal between Tampa's Alonso High and Miami's Palmetto High.
Contact Steven Ryzewski at [email protected].