The Mustangs could not solve Winter Springs' pitching and lost 3–0.
It seemed humorous at the time, but mistakes made by the PA announcer before Lakewood Ranch High softball's Class 8A state title game against Winter Springs High could have been mistaken for an omen postgame.
During introductions, Lakewood Ranch players had grades and positions mixed up, and junior shortstop Kali Reis was skipped entirely, until the announcer realized the error. Players shook their heads and looked confused while lining up for the National Anthem.
It was not the last time Lakewood Ranch's hitters would look puzzled.
The Mustangs mustered one hit against Winter Springs pitcher Aynslie Furbush, a junior Mississippi commit, after scored 10 or more runs in all six previous playoffs games, and fell to the Bears 3–0 at the newly-named Jackie Robinson Training Complex, formerly called Historic Dodgertown, in Vero Beach. The hit came from junior catcher McKenzie "Pie" Clark, who tripled with one down in the seventh inning to start a would-be rally. Junior first baseman Avery Goelz followed with a walk, leaving junior outfielder/pitcher Claire Davidson standing at the plate as the tying run.
Davidson popped one to third base. Senior third baseman Maddie Koczersut followed with a fly out of her own, and the game was over.
"We all were saying we were seeing her well," Goelz said. "It just seemed like no balls were getting through and nothing was dropping. It was kind of unlucky. There are marks on my bat (from where) I had it barreled, I just didn't hit it completely solid."
Mustangs coach T.J. Goelz said he thought his hitters were "a little bit off" and got under a few balls he wished they hit square. He also credited Furbush with throwing her changeup for strikes and keeping the Mustangs tentative. When that happens, he said, swings get slower and the bat head drops, hence the pop-ups.
Davidson said Furbush was also mixing speed well, which added to Lakewood Ranch's puzzlement.
Junior pitcher Brooklyn Lucero started the game for Lakewood Ranch. She threw 3.1 innings before running into trouble. Winter Springs scored all its runs in the fourth, thanks to a single, a dropped fly ball by Mustangs freshman center fielder Sydney McCray and a bases-clearing double from senior Bears outfielder Destiny Colgate, who took third base in the aftermath.
T.J. Goelz then brought in senior pitcher Kayla Howald to get out of the jam. She walked the first two batters she faced before freshman infielder Lindsay Corazzini hit an RBI single to right. Howald would strike out the next two batters to end the inning, but Winter Springs had taken a three-run lead, one Furbush would not concede. All three runs were charged to Lucero, though only two were earned runs.
Koczersut, one of five Mustangs seniors and the only senior starter in the lineup (Howald started five games on the mound), said she would most remember her teammates more than anything.
"My sophomore year was the first time we visited this field, for the first practice of the season," Koczersut said. "We didn't make it here, but my junior year we made it to the state semis and this year we made it to the championship. Even though things didn't turn out the way we wanted, I won't forget any of the memories made with the girls. I am grateful for this team. It is just a cool experience to have and I am glad this is the year I am going out (to graduation)."
The Mustangs return the rest of their lineup, and three of their four main pitchers. They will be a title threat again in 2020, and they know it.
"I think we just had an even bigger spark ignited," Avery Goelz said, looking at the Winter Springs celebration. "We are going to come out next year even harder. We made it a step closer this year and I think next year we can finally get there.
"We thought we had it. We really did."
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