VERO BEACH, Fla. (WJHG/WECP) - The last thing on anyone's mind immediately after Hurricane Michael was sports.
As time passes, sports is just one way people in the panhandle are showing their perseverance.
The Marianna "Lady Dawgs" softball team is "MHS Strong," set for the state Final Four a long way from home in Vero Beach...and even further removed from the devastation of Michael.
Their field was destroyed, forcing originally scheduled home games to be moved to the road. Like the baseball team, a pair of home games were played at nearby Chipola College.
But effort equals results. Head coach Scott Wiggins is proud to say they got the field ready for the rest of the season.
Led by five seniors, the Bulldogs are 26-1 (with one game ruled a tie due to inclement weather), just two wins away from a title.
"This is our expectation and this is why we've worked so hard," Wiggins said. "20 plus wins for four straight years now. The leadership of the seniors with Chloe [Temples] and Deanna Holland, and Jayden [Sorey], who has primarily been with the varsity for four years now...you know, it's the girls. They believe. They just have the hearts of champions and it's showing."
Temples, a Stetson signee, has totaled more than 800 career strikeouts with two no hitters in postseason play.
The talent existed for a postseason run anyway, but the circumstances surrounding the storm has made the team even stronger.
"Michael's gone. We've got to move forward," Wiggins told the team last fall. "The girls have just bought in and they've pushed through it. They just played together. It's as close a team as I've ever had.
"I mean, there's always going to be some kind of adversity. It's the ones that handle it the best, and i think the storm has just made us that much more mentally strong."
MHS plays Hardee (18-13) in the first 5A semifinal Thursday morning at 8:35 ET, with the winner advancing to play either Hernando or Charter Springs Friday at 10:05.
Wewahitchka and Sneads play in separate 1A semifinals on Tuesday afternoon. NewsChannel 7 Sports will have further coverage of all three teams as the week goes on, including reports live from Vero Beach.
Copyright 2019 WJHG. All rights reserved.