Trailing 1-0 after the top of the first inning, Bishop Verot gathered in the dugout between frames and decided they were not losing.
The girls responded with four runs in the bottom of the first and tightened up their defense to defeat Mulberry 4-1 in the Region 4A-2 softball final Friday at Sam Fleishman Regional Sports Complex.
For the Vikings, it’s their third trip to the state semifinals in the last four years and second consecutive Final Four berth.
“I’m very proud of them,” Verot coach Rick Hendrix said. “They’ve done all the work. We showed up in January and we haven’t changed anything from then. They can run through practice without me showing up. They have had their eye on the prize.”
It was the second game in a row that Verot (27-3, 8-0) plated four runs in the first inning and the second time in the last three games that the Vikings fell behind 1-0 early.
“We came out focused again,” Hendrix said. “They put up a big first inning. I thought we hit the ball better tonight than in our last game. We played a better team.”
Mulberry (18-10) grabbed momentum out of the gate with a Shaila Warren lead-off single off of Verot junior ace Annette Castaldo. Two batters later, catcher Autumn Terwilliger’s double to left scored Warren and ignited a strong Mulberry contingent.
But after the first frame, Castaldo was as solid as she has been all season, allowing just one hit and retiring the last 11 batters she faced for the complete-game win.
Castaldo threw 77 pitches (60 strikes) and allowed one run on three hits with three strikeouts.
Warren, Mulberry’s ace, was unable to make it out of the bottom of the first, giving up four runs on four hits with 21 pitches, while getting two outs.
“I don’t know what the deal was,” Mulberry coach Brian Christensen said.
“It’s not like her. I honestly don’t know what happened. She’s very competitive, but I don’t know what the situation was.”
Senior third baseman Erica Morrisey was outstanding in relief, throwing 69 pitches (46 strikes) with five strikeouts and allowing one hit in 5 1/3 innings.
Verot shortstop Jordan Honc (1-for-3, one run) opened the bottom of the first with a single to left followed by a Kristin Marshall walk.
Senior Morgan Cole’s one-out bunt was picked up quickly by Warren, but she rushed her throw that went off first baseman’s Sammi McNally’s glove and plated Honc. Then, senior catcher Amber Plaza’s sacrifice bunt scored Marshall from third.
A Jennie Boisvert single and Kassidy Stawicki (2-for-3, one RBI) double both plated runs, forcing Christensen to pull Warren and insert Morrisey.
The game wasn’t without dramatics though. In the top of the third, Plaza and Castlado collided on Mulberry rightfielder Brianne McMichael’s routine pop-up. Both said they called for the ball, but neither stopped running. Plaza suffered a hip pointer injury that forced her out the game. The senior captain returned in the fifth and will play in next week’s state semifinal.
Verot will face the winner of the Episcopal and Madison County game in the Region 4A-1 final Friday at the Vero Beach Sports Village.