VERO BEACH — Ashley Wilson’s walkoff homer Wednesday allowed Freedom to keep moving on.
Wilson led off the bottom of the eighth inning by belting a 3-2 pitch from Tallahassee Chiles ace Samantha Martin over the centerfield fence at the Vero Beach Sports Village complex, walking off with the winning hit in the Class 7A semifinal and sending the Patriots to their first title game in a 1-0 win.
Freedom (22-3) will face Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas (21-5), which also won on a walkoff in extra innings. Tonight’s championship game is scheduled for 7:05.
Wilson capped off a banner night for herself and her teammates. Freedom pitched well throughout, made superb defensive plays and produced the game’s most timely hit in its first final four game in school history.
“I thought it might be out as soon as she hit it,” said coach Autum Hernandez. “It was another example of the bottom of our lineup coming through. She made great contact (on the home run) and had made great contact earlier. We were excited about who was coming up in the order.
“Every game lately seems to end with some dramatic ending.”
In fact, Wilson’s homer and double in the third inning were Freedom’s only hits against the hard-throwing Martin. She fanned 11 batters, including three straight in the bottom of the seventh after wildness put the first two hitters on base with no outs.
Through 5 2/3 innings, Martin (19-5) faced the minimum 17 batters. As the home team, Freedom had a chance in the seventh to walk off with a win but was overpowered by the right-hander.
“In the Countryside game (in the region quarterfinal), we only had one hit through seven innings,” Hernandez said. “We had a grand slam against Sarasota in the seventh inning, so all of this has been huge for us.”
The stage was set for Wilson.
On a full count, she jumped on an inside pitch and sent it out just right of dead centerfield, prompting a wild celebration. She said it made up for her double in the third that she tried to leg into a triple but was thrown out at third base.
“I’m so excited right now I can’t even describe it,” Wilson said of her fourth home run. “It makes up a bit for the baserunning mistake. I swung as hard as I could and thought I had it. I felt it was just a really good hit.”
Chiles (23-8) had two hits in the first, two in the third and two in the sixth but couldn’t come up with the extra hit to score a run. Part of that also is credited to Wilson.
In the sixth, Jenny Ross and Katie Baker, who stroked five of Chiles’ seven hits between them, opened with singles, but Hannah Hilaman’s deep drive to the edge of the leftfield warning track was snared by Wilson, who wheeled and doubled up Ross at second base.
Katlin Hall (7-2) relieved starting pitcher Grace Street to earn the win. Hall gave up three hits, struck out two and was the beneficiary of the double play Wilson started in the sixth to kill Chiles’ threat.
“We’ve been in these situations before, and you just have to trust your defense and your pitches,” said Hall, a senior who transferred from Wharton.
“In the end, it all worked out.”