Cassie Rivard drove in Alli Sartini for the go-ahead run in the bottom of the sixth inning, helping the host Warriors top the Titans 6-5 in the regional semifinals.
The saying goes that it is hard to beat a good team twice — or three times, or four times, and so on.
On Tuesday night in Winter Garden, the Olympia Titans softball team made sure the West Orange Warriors understood the truth to that statement.
West Orange won the FHSAA Class 9A, Region 1 Semifinal matchup 6-5 — beating its rival for a fourth and final time this spring — but not before the visiting Titans had given the Warriors all they could handle.
After trailing 5-0 through three innings, Olympia battled back, first scoring one run in the fourth before a four-run sixth inning tied the game at 5-5. Then, in the bottom-half of the inning, Cassie Rivard drove in Alli Sartini for a go-ahead run that would prove to be the deciding run in an exciting game.
"(Rivard) has had a couple of 'big moment' hits (this season) — she was squaring the ball up all night," West Orange coach Kelsey LaNeave said. "It's never easy playing a team four times — let alone a group of girls that our girls have grown up playing with and playing against."
To get the final three outs and make sure that the Titans didn't have another rally left in them, the Warriors recalled starting pitcher Landry Newgent to pitch in the top of the seventh, after she had been pulled an inning earlier following a home run by Caryssa Orland and a double by Megan Wilder.
The inning of rest seemed to have worked wonders, though, as Newgent returned to the mound with some added velocity and confidence, shutting down Olympia with the game on the line.
"(Going back in is) definitely kind of stressful, but with my team talking me through it, it was so much easier," Newgent said. "I was definitely a lot more confident. I was determined and I knew I had a job I had to do."
Lexi Mosur helped anchor the offense for West Orange (22-7) earlier in the game, driving in three runs.
For Olympia, its beginning began with the solo home run from Orland, who also was the Titans' starting pitcher. She was relieved by Wilder, who was strong in relief, allowing just one run on three hits in 3.1 innings of work.
Afterward, Olympia coach Hank Largin expressed pride in the way his team battled back with its season on the line.
"Resilience is a word that we've used (all season) — we've just found ways," Largin said. "I told them after the game ... 'this is what happens when you come together and you play really well when it matters in big games' — that was kind of our whole season. It would have been easy to get beat 10-0 when it was 5-0, but we didn't do that."
West Orange will now prepare to face Spruce Creek on the road in Port Orange on Friday in the FHSAA Class 9A, Region 1 Championship. It is the Warriors' fourth consecutive trip to the regional final round, with this one appearance standing out given some of the adversity the team has encountered this spring, including health problems that sideline head coach Todd LaNeave in March.
"It's been a bumpy road of a season," Kelsey LaNeave said. "So the fact that we've gotten into a regional final is pretty amazing."