VERO BEACH — All season, Admiral Farragut has focused on two things:
Believe in each other.
Commit to the process.
Well, it all paid off in a big way Monday in the Class 3A state semifinals at Historic Dodgertown in Vero Beach.
Alyssa Rano hit a two-run single and Krystina Hartley followed with a two-run home run as part of a five-run fifth inning that gave the Blue Jackets an 8-1 victory over John Carroll Catholic.
The championship is scheduled for 4:35 p.m. Tuesday. AFA (19-5) will take on Cornerstone Charter Academy (21-10), a 10-5 winner over Rocky Bayou Christian.
"I think what’s really cool is that, for us, we came here in 2016 and we were just happy to be here," Farragut coach Linda Derk said. "I know this time, it wasn’t just happy to be here. … I couldn’t be prouder of the team mentality this group has.
"It’s really nice to watch them learn and grow every day and you could just see the determination in their face today that they weren’t going to let this weather — or anything — get in their way."
Heavy rain forced the state semifinals to be postponed twice, and there was rain in Vero Beach on Monday. But like Derk said, the Blue Jackets weren’t going to be stopped by anyone.
That was especially true of sophomore pitcher Brielle Benefield, who gave up a single to lead off the game and didn’t allow another hit until the top of the seventh. She struck out seven and walked two.
Benefield, who credited her defense with helping shut down John Carroll, said she felt stronger once she got past the first inning.
"I was very nervous the first inning," she said "It just took some settling down to get into the groove."
Farragut took a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the first when Rano drew a two-out walk and Hartley hit a single to centerfield that rolled right through the legs of the John Carroll centerfielder, allowing Rano to come all the way around from first to score.
The Blue Jackets had a chance to add to that lead in the third, but after Haley Saylor advanced all the way to third on a single and two wild pitches, she was thrown out at the plate trying to score on another wild pitch.
That looked like it might cost Farragut when John Carroll scored on a Blue Jackets’ error in the top of the fourth.
But, of course, that all changed in the bottom of the fifth.
Derk said she purposely scheduled a tough non-district schedule to make sure her team would be used to playing in tight games and big situations. And that was evident Monday.
Rano and Hartley each had two hits and two RBIs for the Blue Jackets. Melissa Diaz also had an RBI single. Saylor and Rano both scored twice.
Now the Blue Jackets have a shot at the first state championship in program history.