BOCA RATON – The long wait is over for St. Thomas Aquinas softball.
The Raiders are headed to the state semifinals for the first time in a decade – they won the Class 4A championship for the second consecutive season in 2003 – and seventh time overall thanks to Monday night’s 7-0 win at West Boca in a 7A regional final.
“I was a little feisty today because we’ve been in that regional game twice -- once had a lead and lost it, up 4-0, a close game with Cooper [City] back when [St. Thomas assistant coach Kelly] Deibler was pitching [for Nova] – and it had been bothering me all weekend,” said St. Thomas coach Bryan Baucom.
“It’s like a monkey off my back. You see [Pembroke] Pines Charter and all these other teams have success and we’ve kind of been not up to their par lately. But we’re right with all those other teams now.”
Broward County will be represented in the semifinals of the four largest classifications in the state, with Cypress Bay (8A), Pines Charter (6A) and American Heritage (5A) also advancing. American Heritage-Delray and King’s Academy will also be in Vero Beach and would meet for the 3A championship Thursday if they both win Wednesday.
St. Thomas will play Harmony on Wednesday in one 7A semifinal at Vero Beach Sports Village. Tallahassee Chiles and Tampa Freedom will face off in the other, also at 7 p.m.
“Basically, I told them [before Monday's game], all of our friends are going to Vero, but us, at the moment. So we need to go with them ,” Baucom said.
St. Thomas and West Boca had met twice in regionals before, with West Boca winning 8-1 in 2006 in the semifinals and 6-3 in 2007 in the regional final. Both years, West Boca advanced to the state semis. Now it’s St. Thomas’ turn again, and their chances to win it all look good with ace Meghan King healthy again and the team batting well since being no-hit in the district final. In their past three games, the Raiders have combined for 30 runs.
“I feel so good for [the players],” Baucom said. “But, you know what? The mission’s not done.”