Tampa Catholic (19-8) faces Miami Westminster Christian (23-8) at 7:20 p.m. Tuesday at the Jackie Robinson Training Complex (formerly Historic Dodgertown) in Vero Beach.
How they got here
Tampa Catholic defeated Orlando Montverde Academy 12-8 and Calvary Christian 9-5. Miami Westminster Christian defeated Fort Lauderdale Westminster Academy 16-1 and Hollywood Chaminade-Madonna 10-0.
Tampa Catholic: OF/P Paige Lassiter, So. (.500 avg., 17 RBIs); SS Alexa Russo, Sr. (.470 avg., 22 RBIs, 4 HRs); C Gabby Burleigh, Sr. (.429 avg., 11 2Bs, 21 RBIs); CF/P Olivia Mendez, Jr., (3.90 ERA, 51 Ks).
Miami Westminster Christian: INF Lindsey Arana, Jr. (.500 avg., 4 HRs, 27 RBIs); OF Megan Diaz, Jr. (.463 avg., 3 HRs, 30 RBIs); INF Hailey Donovan, So., (.398, 4 HRs, 30 RBIs); P Hannah Kemmerer, Jr. (11-5, 1.60 ERA, 39 Ks).
Tampa Catholic is in the state semifinals for the first time since 1997 when the program won its only fast-pitch title. Crusaders coach Jackie Hirschfeld was on that championship team and went on to play at Florida State. Hirschfeld’s son, Carter, was born less than a month ago. She returned to coach the team in the region final and will have her newborn in Vero Beach for the tournament. Tampa Catholic has a penchant for making furious rallies. In the district semifinals, the Crusaders trailed rival Academy of the Holy Names 9-2 before scoring eight runs in the fifth inning en route to a wild 12-10 victory. In the region semifinals, Tampa Catholic came back from an early 3-0 deficit to win 12-8. Crusaders shortstop Alexa Russo, a University of Tampa signee, has baseball bloodlines. Her father, Paul, played 11 seasons (1990-2000) for the Twins, Padres, Yankees and Astros. Her brother, also named Paul, is currently in the Nationals’ minor-league system. And her uncle, Pat, played five seasons (1990-94) with the Twins, Angels, Mets and Yankees. Two of Tampa Catholic’s players, Gabby and Grace Burleigh, are twins. Miami Westminster Christian has won 18 straight district titles and is the two-time defending state champions. Since 2014, the Warriors have been a consistent contender, winning three state title and advancing to the semifinals every year during that span. They are on a seven-game win streak, outscoring foes by a combined 83-3. The offense packs a punch with six players who have at least 23 RBIs on the season.