LAKEWOOD RANCH -- The Lakewood Ranch softball team wasn't built for glitter.
There was no desire to have an impressive record that might get the Mustangs a high spot in the state rankings.
Head coach Tony Cummins said he doesn't even know how many games his team has won or loss.
You could argue Lakewood Ranch was built to travel.
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The girls will be making their second straight trip to the state final four next week thanks to an 8-3 victory over River Ridge, Friday in the Class 6A-Region 3 title game at Lakewood Ranch.
River Ridge came into the game on a 17-game win streak and a 28-1 record. In the region semifinal, Lakewood Ranch beat Dover Strawberry Crest, which was 24-2 and had won 20 of 21 games.
The Mustangs are a pedestrian 20-9-1, but have proven they know how to win big games.
"The first 25 games don't mean much to me. I don't know our record. We play for championship series," Cummins said. "I built the toughest schedule we could build anticipating health and no sickness, but we had a lot of that. The first eight or nine weeks of the
season, we didn't have a healthy lineup."
Cummins does have a luxury in Taylor Newton, a clutch player who has no fear and loves the big stage. She and Jenn Trotter have started on four straight district and two straight region championship teams and will be making their second straight state final four appearance.
Newton took matters in her own hands. She had a two-run single in the bottom of the first that scored Trotter and Amber Wimmer, who reached on a walk and single, respectively, to give the Mustangs a 2-1 lead.
Newton showed her flair for the dramatic leading off the bottom of the sixth in what was her last at-bat on her home field with the Mustangs leading 4-2.
The third baseman told her coaches she would hit a homer and delivered, smacking her team-leading sixth round-tripper of the season.
"I feel good. I can't wait for states," Newton said. "We are all just coming together at the right time. I am ready for states. I just wanted to get a good, hard swing so we could get a good lead and not worry about it. We have our prom tonight, and I wanted to enjoy it."
The Mustangs broke a 2-2 deadlock in the fifth on Shea Fisher's two-run single that scored Trotter and McKaleigh Goodale, who reached on singles.
Newton's homer seemed to ignite the Lakewood Ranch bats. The Mustangs followed with four singles that scored three more runs.
"Hitting breeds hitting," Cummins said. "Figgy (Newton) came up and hit a homer and that was as crucial a hit as any all day for us. It got us going. We decided to grip and rip a little bit."
Amanda Rak went the distance for the Mustangs. The sophomore gave up runs in the first, second and seventh innings. She finished with eight strikeouts, allowed eight hits and walked three.
"It is so relieving to know I have a great defense behind me," Rak said. "I gave up some hits, but would've given up more if it wasn't for them. I am grateful. In the first couple of innings, I let a few runs in. But as the game progressed, I got to know the hitters better and knew where to throw it."
The Mustangs got nine hits off River Ridge ace right-hander Makenzie Goluba who came into the game with a 0.32 ERA and 145 strikeouts in 151 innings. The sophomore brought a 23-1 record.
Trotter went 2-for-3 and scored two runs with an RBI, Newton was 2-for-3 with her three RBIs, and Tallie Sharp had a hit and an RBI and scored a run.
The Lakewood Ranch softball team had never gone to the state tournament until Cummins took over the program last year. He is 2-for-2, but refused to take any credit.
"I attribute that to a tremendous rec program and a tremendous group of coaches that surround these kids. I am very fortunate. I walked into a very good situation," he said.
The Mustangs play their state tournament opener against either Lynn Haven Mosley or Lake City Columbia on Friday at the Vero Beach Sports Complex in Vero Beach at a time to be determined.