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Back-to-back! Calvary Christian shuts out Somerset Academy to win Class 3A title, again

Updated: Dec 15, 2023

CLERMONT — The common theme after Calvary Christian secured the final out to capture its second consecutive softball state championship was the same as the first.

It didn’t feel real.

“We talked this morning, we said it feels like a travel ball tournament,” said Calvary Christian pitcher Morgen Talley. “It’s all just crazy.”

The Class 3A State Championship game was moved up from 1 p.m. to 10 a.m., as the FHSAA anticipated inclement weather and everything in the Warriors’ day got moved up. They were on the bus to Legends Way Ballfields at 7:45 and warming up by 9, something reminiscent of a Thursday in summer ball with multiple games to be played, not just one.

And while the bus ride back from Clearwater to Clermont after a day off took a little longer than they hoped, the Warriors felt energized and ready to go.

It took a few innings for the bats to wake up before a clutch couple of hits in the sixth inning pushed Calvary Christian to a 3-0 victory over Somerset Academy Silver Palms (Miami) in the FHSAA Class 3A State Championship game at Legends Way Ballfields.

“I don’t know, I’m so emotional right now,” Warrior head coach Dion Weaver said. “That was our goal in the beginning when we got together in the fall – to get back here and win it again. To achieve that goal that we set so many months ago, it’s just unbelievable.”

All of those months and reps at practice – Weaver admitted that it may have gotten monotonous – paid off in big ways, which was illustrated from the very beginning of Thursday’s game. SASP leadoff hitter Ava Stevens burned a triple to the left-center gap and nearly became the game’s opening run when one of Talley’s pitches popped out of catcher Ava Planeta’s glove. The junior backstop did an incredible job recovering and making an accurate throw back to the pitcher to erase the hit and keep the Stallions off the board.

“I don’t think she got a good jump at third,” Planeta said. “But I knew I had to get the ball out of my hand as fast as I could possibly can.”

Talley knew they’d get her, and sure enough, they did.

The Warriors worked Somerset Academy starter Edan Playa and was helped by a 10-pitch at-bat from Izzy Doce. Payton Cushman hit a two-out single in the third, then an error at second put Alexis Camilleri on in the fourth before a mental error from the Stallions – they had a double play turned but forgot how many outs were in the inning and didn’t throw to first – nearly cost them the lead. Playa rolled a groundout to first to get out of it.

A single and a stolen base got a runner in scoring position for the Stallions in the third before Cameron Power took away a base hit – and likely a run – on a great catch in right field. SASP got the runner to third and dared to take home on a delayed steal.

“I could see her out of the corner of my eye,” Talley said.

Planeta and Talley played catch because that runner tried to come in after Planeta threw it back to Talley after a pitch, then Talley fired it back to her battery mate, who applied the tag and kept it scoreless.

“We work on that stuff every day in practice,” Weaver said. “The plays at the plate. Morgen and Ava, they work together tremendously. It’s just the stuff that we work on, every single day. When you need it, you need it.”

In the sixth, Irianis Garcia reached on an error that stemmed from a ground ball to Playa. In stepped Talley with an opportunity to change the game for the second time in as many games – and frankly, it felt like the electricity from her go-ahead three-run home run in the state semis against Baldwin still hadn’t left the yard. The question on everyone in the ballpark’s mind quickly turned to if Somerset Academy would give her anything to hit.

“I was definitely expecting them to give her something,” Weaver said.

And they did. Talley pulled a pitch inside the third base bag and into the outfield. Garcia chugged around the bases and slid in safely.

Calvary led by one in the sixth on a huge RBI double.

Julia Tamulski came in to run, then reached third on a sacrifice bunt and scored on Planeta’s sacrifice fly to center. A colossal insurance tally.

The mountain seemed impossible for the Stallions to climb with Talley in the circle and the Warriors six outs away from glory. The Stallions got a two-out double that didn’t bother her, then they returned to the dugout for one more turn at the plate.

One of the best moments of the game came during that last inning. In what was her final plate appearance in her softball career, Doce worked another long at-bat before drawing a one-out walk. She fouled off four pitches and came around to score after Cushman and Garcia singled and Playa walked Talley on four pitches to bring her in.

“It was my last at-bat. I was going to give it my all and see every pitch all the way in. Whatever happened, happened,” she said.

Doce will head to Samford next fall and not play college ball. She’s Calvary Christian’s lone senior and a four-year varsity player that’s been an everyday ballplayer on back-to-back state champion teams.

“I’m super grateful to my teammates and my school for allowing me to play on this team and especially God for giving me this opportunity and the gifts to play softball,” she said. “It’s a really great ending.”

Talley struck out two in the seventh to finish with an even ten in the final outing of her sophomore season to finish with 174 in 125.2 innings. She allowed just four Stallion hits and no walks in another masterful performance.

Calvary Christian’s goals don’t change. With just Doce graduating and a whole host of players expected to return, the hopes for the rare three-peat started as soon as the home plate umpire called strike three to finish the game.

“It’s just all working out,” Planeta said.

“The plan starts right now to be back here next year. In May,” Weaver said.


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