VERO BEACH — Chamberlain's 3-1 loss to Eagle Lake Lake Region in Wednesday's Class 6A state semifinal was only a few moments old when coach Bobby Diez began to spin the sorrow into a positive.
When — not if — his young Chiefs win a state title over the next two seasons, he said, the run will have begun with the gritty group gathered around him at Historic Dodgertown.
"It's going to be this team and these seniors that did this," Diez said.
The championship rings will have to wait after the Chiefs couldn't complete a textbook Chamberlain comeback.
Lake Region's Haley Wiseman kept Chamberlain's offense at bay all night. Jenna Brownell's two-out double and Liz Diaz's single in the first led to the Chiefs' only run. Wiseman allowed only two other hits while striking out 10.
"I've got to give credit to their pitcher," UCLA-bound outfielder Izzy Ordorica said. "She did a great job. They were just making the plays they needed to make."
Chamberlain sophomore Olivia Dwyer pitched well enough to keep her team's quest for a second state title in three years alive. Lake Region scored its runs on a sacrifice fly, RBI double and a rocket to centerfield aided by back-to-back walks.
Despite getting only one runner on base from the second inning through the sixth, Chamberlain (27-4) had a chance to go ahead in the top of the seventh as it had done all season long.
"We never gave up," Ordorica said. "We never do."
Diaz led off with a single up the middle, and Kelsi Mays added another to put the go-ahead run at the plate. But the Chiefs grounded into a 5-3 double play — their third double play of the night — to end the game.
"It's unlike Chamberlain that we didn't come back," Diaz said.
If Diez is right, Chamberlain will come back here again, soon.
The Chiefs lose only three seniors from a starless lineup and have talented youngsters across the field. That group also has a taste of high school softball at the highest level, which gives Diez hope that the sobs in the visiting dugout Wednesday night will become shrieks of joy in a year or two.
"My seniors," Diez said, "will be responsible for that."