Calvary Christian made school history Thursday in Clermont by winning its second straight state softball title with a 3-0 victory over Somerset Academy Silver Palms in the Class 3A final.
Now, the Warriors appear poised for a historic state championship three-peat.
This year’s Warriors graduate only one senior, second baseman Isabelle Doce, meaning one of the state’s most talented groups of underclassmen, including rising junior superstar Morgen Talley, will return.
“When we come back in the fall, that is the goal we will talk about — getting the three-peat,” Calvary coach Dion Weaver said. “We know what it takes. We know we can’t take anything for granted. We will definitely be motivated.”
Part of the motivation stems from the fact that no team from the Tampa Bay area has ever won three consecutive state softball titles.
Only Canterbury, with five total state titles; and Palm Harbor University and Riverview, with three; own more. The other area schools with two state championships include Academy at the Lakes, Admiral Farragut, Bloomingdale, Chamberlain and Seminole Presbyterian (now Cambridge).
“We really believe we can (three peat),” Calvary catcher Ava Planeta said. “We have an experienced and talented team, and we have Morgen Talley, who is a backbone for us.
“When Morgen is pitching or hitting or playing third base, it adds this awesome energy. It’s exciting to have her as a teammate.”
And a real problem for opponents.
Case in point was Tuesday’s state semifinal, in which Baldwin held a 4-2 lead in the bottom of the fifth inning.
Calvary put a couple of runners on base, bringing Talley to the plate. Instead of pitching around her or issuing an intentional walk, Baldwin chose to pitch to her.
Talley, who entered with a .425 average and nine homers, promptly blasted a pitch over the fence, giving the Warriors a 5-4 lead they would not relinquish in an eventual 7-4 win.
“She is that kind of player,” Weaver said of Talley, who personally has won three straight state titles, including one with Canterbury in 2021. “These are the types of things she does.”
Talley finished the season with a 12-2 pitching record with a 1.11 ERA and 174 strikeouts in 125-2/3 innings.
Over her last six playoff games dating back to districts, she collected four shutouts, including a four-hitter in the state final, in which she struck out 10. In the same game, she drove in two of the Warriors’ three runs.
“It’s awesome to be the catcher when she’s throwing,” Planeta said. “She throws so hard, including her sinker that sometimes is tough to catch. But I know if it’s difficult to catch, it’s that much harder to get a hit off her.”
Talley, however, is far from being the only talent on Calvary’s squad.
There is centerfielder Payton Cushman, who led the Warriors with a .495 average, 34 runs scored and 24 RBIs.
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Up the middle are Doce at second base and shortstop Irianis Garcia, who were all but flawless in the state semifinal; as well as Planeta, who twice in the final tagged out runners at home plate.
Calvary finished the season with a 22-7 record, with all of the losses coming against high-quality teams, mostly from much higher classifications.
“We played one of the toughest schedules in the state,” Planeta said. “And when the playoffs came, we felt prepared for anything. We lost the first game of the season (5-2 to Auburndale), and that really taught us something. I think that loss made us get more focused.”
The Warriors also had to overcome the graduation of three players from last year’s state championship squad, several serious injuries and the transfer of another player. Calvary finished the season with just 13 players on the roster, but “they all contributed a lot to our success,” Weaver said.
Calvary’s latest softball title came a week after the school’s baseball team captured its third state championship.