BAYSHORE GARDENS -- When it came time to pick his week of vacation, Frank Luther went online to find the date of the Class 5A state softball semifinals.
Luther had a hunch his Bruins would be one of the final four Class 5A teams playing for a championship in Vero Beach. So this was the week he chose.
Monday night, his players made the coach look prophetic. Bayshore beat Wauchula Hardee 6-0 in the Class 5A-Region 3 championship game to clinch the program's first trip to the state final four.
The Bruins (23-4) meet Belleview at either 6:05 p.m. or 7:20 p.m. Friday night at Historic Dodgertown. The winner plays 7:05 p.m. Saturday for the title against either Plantation American Heritage or Ponte Vedra.
"I don't have to ask for time off for Friday or Saturday," said Luther, a merchandiser at Frito-Lay who requested the week off toward the end of last year.
He had a reason to be optimistic: The Bruins reached the region final last spring for the first time in program history. With nearly everyone returning, Bayshore was expected to get as far, or further, this year.
It happened Monday night.
"This year, it was pressure, and that's what I told them at the beginning of the season," Luther said. "I said, 'All we did last year was we won pressure. We added pressure. People are going expect us to do it this year.' They handled it."
It was Bayshore who applied the pressure early Monday beginning with LaShara James' triple to lead off the first. James stayed put on Kristin Staley's bunt single and scored on JoJo Muldoon's grounder to short.
Muldoon beat the throw
to first and Staley advanced to third. While Muldoon got herself in a rundown, Staley scored another run, and Muldoon slid safely into second.
A run-scoring groundout by Maddie Ramirez and a hit by Ashley Perry gave Bayshore a 4-0 lead after an inning.
James ended up with three hits, a walk and three runs scored. She typically hits second, but Luther decided to switch James and Staley in the event Hardee tried to pitch around James, who entered the night hitting .585 with eight home runs.
Those runs were all Miriam Schmoll needed. The freshman allowed one run in 18 innings during the regional tournament and pitched out of two bases-loaded jams Monday.
"Pressure -- it can make you or break you," said Schmoll, who struck out nine, walked three and allowed two hits Monday. "I had my teammates talking to me, they were keeping me calm. LaShara was constantly telling me she had my back."
Schmoll retired the final four hitters she faced in recording Bayshore's biggest win in team history.
"I'm really proud of my team," Muldoon said. "I knew we could do it from the beginning of the season, it was just whether we would do it or not. So it feels great."
Staley, the only senior in Bayshore's starting lineup, finished with two hits and an RBI.
"Our first goal was to win the district -- we won it," Luther said. "Our second goal was to make it further than we made it last year -- we just did that (Monday). Now we'll set another goal, which is to win a state championship."