TAMPA — If Chamberlain first baseman Liz Diaz ever needed a reminder of her program’s rich history, she’d only need to look behind her to the outfield wall, where the names of previous All-America Chiefs stare back.
“It’s not really intimidating,” Diaz said. “It’s inspiring.”
It’s also the biggest difference between this year’s state-bound Chiefs and the other seven Chamberlain teams coach Bobby Diez has taken to region championships.
“There’s no stars,” Diez said.
Instead of All-America talents like Bianka Bell, who took Chamberlain to the Class 7A state title two years ago, the Chiefs have a mix of gritty veterans and solid youngsters that will face Eagle Lake Lake Region in today’s Class 6A state semifinal in Vero Beach.
Although no Chiefs are hitting better .450 or have more than three home runs, Chamberlain’s offense is deep. Four girls are batting at least .400 — Diaz, Lauren Williams, Izzy Ordorica and Hope Hernandez. Ten players have at least 10 RBIs, led by Diaz’s 37.
Sophomore pitcher Olivia Dwyer hasn’t put up gaudy statistics (1.40 ERA, seven shutouts) but has been a steady force in the circle for a team with only three seniors.
Chamberlain has embraced its starless identity. The locker room is ego free, and its close bonds are perhaps the biggest reason behind the Chiefs’ 27-4 season.
“We just have more heart and passion than any other team I’ve ever been on,” said Diaz, a Saint Leo recruit who was on the 2012 state title team.
The Chiefs needed both traits at two pivotal parts of the season.
Chamberlain lost its two biggest tests of the season before heading to a March tournament in Bartow — where Auburndale blew it out in the first game. The Chiefs rallied from there with confidence-boosting wins of Strawberry Crest and Bartow and four wins at the Kissimmee Klassic.
“It was kind of like, ‘Oh man, maybe we can do this,’ ” Diez said.
After its offense struggled in a 2-1 loss to Jefferson in the district championship, Chamberlain’s heart and passion never wavered. The Chiefs blew out Mitchell in the region quarterfinals and avenged that defeat to the Dragons to pave the path to Historic Dodgertown — and keep Ordorica’s prophecy alive.
Before the season, the UCLA signee looked at her team’s roster and envisioned a shot at the program’s third state championship. Diez thought Ordorica was crazy, but he reminded her of her prediction during a celebratory meal at Beef ‘O’ Brady’s after Sunday’s region championship.
For Ordorica, the team’s success stems from its on-the-field talent, off-field chemistry and the intangible boost that comes from playing at a home stadium with celebratory banners sprawled in the outfield.
“You play with the Chamberlain across your jersey,” Ordorica said. “It’s just kind of that pride. You want to uphold that reputation.”
Where: Historic Dodgertown, Vero Beach
Admission: $9 per session; $8 for parking
Class 6A: Chamberlain (27-4) vs. Eagle Lake Lake Region (24-6), 7:20 p.m.