WELLINGTON — With one swing of the bat Tuesday, Wellington softball clinched its first region final berth since 2017.
In the bottom of the fourth, Erryn Lowe hit a fly ball that cleared the center-field fence, breaking the ice in a pitcher’s duel to propel the Wolverines to the 2-0 victory over Centennial.
Pitchers Jordan White and Tori Payne combined to allow just two hits, while Kaitlyn Campbell’s defensive brilliance helped to preserve the shutout for Wellington (19-2-1).
“Defense, pitching, and the two-run homer, or we’d still be playing,” Wellington head coach Mark Boretti said.
Centennial (15-8), which defeated Fort Pierce Central, Treasure Coast and St. Cloud to reach the semifinals, got an impressive pitching performance from Hailey Brereton, but a quiet night from the batter’s box will see a successful season draw to a close.
Here are three takeaways from Tuesday’s regional semifinal action.
Lowe swings high, wins game with go-ahead homer
In her first-at bat, Lowe hit a line drive to center field, which was caught for an out.
She didn’t miss her next time at the plate.
In a low-scoring affair and with a man on second, it took a single swing for Lowe to make all the difference for Wellington, crushing an offering from Brereton to plate two go-ahead runs.
“I had a runner on two, and we needed to get up, so I just had a job to do,” Lowe said. “For me, all I want to do is hit the ball hard somewhere. Didn’t really matter where it went, but luckily it went out, so . . . happy about that.”
The ball cleared the fence to the cheers of her teammates as they rushed to home plate to await her jog around the bases, digital fireworks accompanying their excitement over the loudspeakers.
“I felt ecstatic,” Lowe said. “I don’t know how to describe it. It’s something only a few people get to experience in their lifetime.”
The hit was to be all the offense the Wolverines could muster against a tough Centennial pitcher, but in the regional playoffs, sometimes it’s one at-bat that makes or breaks the game.
Centennial became a family as season wore on
The Eagles have a season to be proud of, to be sure.
That rings true for both on and off the field, says head coach David Slover.
“We struggled a little bit in the beginning of the season, and our girls became a team throughout the season,” Slover said. “I know that’s kind of a cliche thing to say, but I would say about halfway through the season, we as coaches didn’t have to coach that much because they took over the role.”
To an outsider looking in, the camaraderie was evident in the dugout as the players performed their team chants and picked each other up when at-bats didn’t go as planned.
“When someone was having a great game, the entire team surrounded them. When someone was having a rough time on or off the field, the team surrounded them. They became a family and a team. I am more proud of that than all the wins.”
The Eagles finish the season with a 15-8 record, boasting signature wins against Okeechobee, Seminole Ridge, Sebastian River and Jensen Beach.
Wolverines' pitching, defense come up clutch
On the mound, both White and Payne combined for a stellar outing.
Each allowed just one hit, with White striking out three in three innings pitched, while Payne tallied five strikeouts in the final four innings.
White pitched out of a jam in the third inning with two runners in scoring position, getting a crucial strikeout to preserve the scoreless tie at the time.
Payne then stepped in and was lights-out.
“Just doing it for this team,” Payne said. “They put two runs on the board — shout-out to ‘E-Money’ — I knew if she put two on the board, I can hold them to zero. That’s all I needed them to do. They had my back like I had theirs.”
Payne’s change-up did wonders as the later innings wore on, helping to keep Centennial’s hitters off balance — and when they did manage contact, she had Campbell in left field to thank.
The outfielder managed two impressive catches in two straight innings, ranging back on both accounts, the encore catch even more difficult than the first.
“She definitely saved us two innings with a fantastic catch going back on the ball like that,” Boretti said, before noting his pitchers' performance. “When you give up no runs, you can’t lose.”
The Wolverines will hope to continue their diamond dominance, with perhaps a tad more offense, when they welcome Jupiter to town for the regional final on Friday.
“We have to play great defense,” Boretti said. “We have to come up with some more offense than tonight. It’s all of it. You have to play a full game to win a regional final.”
Wellington and Jupiter have met twice this season, with the Wolverines coming out on top each time with a 6-5 score.
This article originally appeared on Palm Beach Post: Erryn Lowe's homer powers Wellington softball to region final