TAMPA — Jefferson clinched its first state playoff berth in school history Wednesday night by defeating Strawberry Crest 7-5 in the Class 4A, District 9 semifinals.
The Dragons advanced to the final to take on Steinbrenner, a 10-0 winner over host Robinson.
"It's important for me," Jefferson coach Eve Suarez said.
"But it's more important to the team."
The Dragons (13-5) fell behind three times but tied the score in their half of the inning each time the Chargers (13-10) went ahead. Jefferson got the last lead, however, with Nadina Sola belting a game-winning two-run home run over the centerfield fence in the sixth.
"It was like relief," Sola said of her first homer this season. "I thought it was going to be a popout."
As for the significance of being the first Jefferson team to make the state playoffs, Sola said, "It means so much. We're making history at Jefferson."
Strawberry Crest made that history hard to come by, taking leads of 2-0, 3-2 and 5-3 before Jefferson tied it with two runs in the fifth. Reina Baluja scored on a bases-loaded walk to Doris Rodriguez, and Selina Perez drove in Sola with a single.
The second game wasn't nearly as close with Jaclyn Amato belting a two-run homer to clinch the game in the sixth by the 10-run mercy rule. Amato went 2-for-2 with two walks, drove in four runs and scored four times.
Amato was just as impressive on the mound. She scattered three hits, struck out 10 and did not walk a batter.
The game was close until Steinbrenner broke it open with five runs in the fifth. Amato hit a two-run single, and Megin Eskew had an RBI single later in the inning.