ODESSA — Savannah Bennett closed her eyes during the national anthem.
It’s what she always does during “The Star-Spangled Banner,” but not to sing along. Carrollwood Day’s senior infielder visualizes how she can help her team win.
“It’s what I always do,” Bennett said. “Maybe I’m using my imagination, but I do it before every game.”
Bennett envisioned a gap hit but didn’t see the go-ahead run coming when she hit an RBI single in the sixth inning to break a 7-7 tie with Belle Isle Cornerstone Charter Academy. The Patriots added four more to win the Class 3A-Region 2 softball final 12-7 on Monday at Fest Field.
With the win, Carrollwood Day became the first program in school history to advance to the state tournament.
“It’s all about character with this team because we didn’t play our best game by any means,” second-year coach Chuck Fest said. “They had a lot of infield hits on us, but to be honest that after (Savannah) got that hit, I knew we would win.”
The Patriots (16-7) took a 2-0 lead in the first behind an RBI triple by Emalee Jansen and an RBI single by Amanda Rose, but the Ducks (18-9) answered with a two-run inside-the-park homer.
After Carrollwood took a 3-2 lead, Cornerstone loaded the bases with three infield hits, then cleared them to take a 5-3 advantage.
Cornerstone pushed the lead to 6-3, but an RBI triple by seventh-grader Kacey Akins and an RBI by Lizzy Edgerton trimmed Carrollwood Day’s deficit to 6-5. The Ducks made it 7-5 before Rose hit a two-run inside-the-park homer in the fifth to tie it at 7.
“We’ve come back from being down more, so I know we can do it and I have faith,” Bennett said.
With the five-run lead, Rose, who replaced Jansen in the fifth, closed out the game with ease.
8A-2: Bloomingdale tops Vero Beach, 2-1
VERO BEACH — On the 10th anniversary of the program’s last state final four appearance, Bloomingdale defeated Vero Beach 2-1 in the Class 8A-Region 2 final to advance to the state semifinals.
The Bulls, who last won a state title in 1993, will face Cypress Bay in the semifinals at 4:35 p.m. Wednesday at the Dodgertown complex in Vero Beach.
“It’s always exciting to play another game in the postseason,” Bloomingdale first-year coach Mandy Schuerman said.
Ranked No. 6 in 8A, Bloomingdale scored two runs in the first inning, enough cushion for junior ace Lace Smith to earn her 21st win of the season. She struck out 12, walked one and allowed three hits.
Smith and Darby Bernaldo had RBIs singles in the first inning.
Vero Beach scored its lone run in the fourth.
“We had a lot of team effort,” Schuerman said. “We played smart and we played small ball.”