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Solo tosses two-hitter as Western blanks Seminole 2-0 for Class 7A state softball title

Western junior Ali Solo delivered exactly what the doctor ordered Saturday afternoon as she tossed a two-hit shutout and the Wildcats topped Seminole 2-0 for the Class 7A girls softball state championship game at the Legends Way Ball Fields in Clermont.

Solo, who has been battling a cold for the past two weeks, pitched a gem as she struck out nine and retired the last 11 batters she faced in a 90-minute game. Solo (19-4) faced 23 batters, just two over the minimum.

“I’ve been taking Advil and medicine that my doctor gave me, and I just have a little bit of a cough,” Solo said by phone. “I was feeling really confident (today). Very peaceful. I felt everything was going to go smoothly.

“Winning this (state championship) means everything to me,” she added. “I knew my team would come through. All the hard work we put in, everything paid off.”

Solo got all of the runs she needed in the fourth when senior Jade Castillo crushed a double off the right-field fence to plate two runners and give Western, the second-ranked team in the state, according to Max Preps, its second state championship in school history, and first since 2018 when it stunned two-time defending champion West Orange 7-0.

The championship game was a classic pitchers duel between Solo and USF signee Seminole senior pitcher Anne Long, who retired the first 10 batters in a row, including six by strikeout, before the Wildcats (27-4-1) broke through with two runs in the bottom of the fourth.

With one out in the fourth, sophomore Brooke Bacaris ended Long’s bid for a perfect game with a single to right-center field and senior Arlette Caravaca followed with a single to left. After junior Danae Falquez flew out to center, Castillo lined a 1-2 pitch for a double off the right field fence scoring Bacaris and Caravaca for a 2-0 lead over the Seminoles (18-8). Those were the only hits off Long the entire game.

“Honestly going into the game, I knew it was going to be a pitcher’s duel. Castillo said. “In that at-bat, I just wanted to put it in play because that was my only job. I was sitting on a curve ball because she threw a curve and drop curve to me earlier. It was my pitch.”

Solo got out of trouble in the second where she gave up a one-out double to freshman Ava Hertz and a single by sophomore Addison Poe in the top of the fourth.

Western finished out the year winning seven straight after a 10-3 loss to Coral Springs Charter in the BCAA Big 8 championship. The Wildcats were forced to come from behind in its past three games before Saturday. They rallied from a 5-1 deficit against defending state champion Spanish River for a 10-5 victory in the regional semifinal before back-to-back, eight-inning 4-3 wins over Park Vista and Jupiter.

“Ali is wired a little differently,” Western coach Johnny Bradshaw said. “She is very competitive. In addition to pitching the past several games with a cold, people don’t realize she took a line drive off her pitching hand in the district final. She took us to the state final four as a freshman and today she took us to the state championship.

“It is very emotional,” Bradshaw added. “People don’t know how much work they put into this. They are dedicated to their craft.”

Western (27-4-1) rallied for a 4-3 victory over Jupiter in eight innings in the state semifinal.

The Wildcats trailed 2-0 heading into the bottom of the fifth but managed to tie the game at 2-2 on RBI hits by Caravaca and then Emma Mosher. In the top of the eighth, Jupiter’s Emma Lucchesi singled in Rylee Lewis, the automatic runner at second to start the inning for a 3-2 advantage. Western senior Alana Cypress delivered a two-run, walk-off single with two outs in the bottom of the eighth, driving in Madison Mejia and Solo for the 4-3 win.

Mavericks, Patriots fall in state softball semifinals

In other state games, Archbishop McCarthy, making its first appearance in the state final four, lost 5-2 in the Class 5A state semifinal

The Mavericks, who had never gotten past the regional semifinals, seized a 2-0 lead in the first inning as junior Sienna Garcia had a double and eventually scored on a sacrifice bunt by senior Chantalle Guillou. Archbishop McCarthy sophomore Izabel Baron also came around to score in the after drawing a walk. The Maverick’s defense ultimately cost them as they allowed five unearned runs off four errors.

American Heritage lost 10-0 in six innings to Baker County in the Class 4A state semifinal. Baker County would lose in the championship game 1-0 to Eustis. Junior Arianna Reynolds and senior Analie Diaz picked up the only hits for the Patriots in the contest.

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