Fast start lifts Williston

Williston shortstop Olivia Davis attempts a double play in the top of the sixth inning against visiting Union County on Thursday.
Photo by C.J. Gish

The Williston softball team continues to roll.

On Thursday night, the Lady Red Devils, who are ranked No. 1 in Class 1A by MaxPreps, struck for six runs in the bottom of the first inning to defeat visiting Union County (Lake Butler), 6-2, for their sixth straight win.

“Big start,” said Williston coach Carl Williams. “The bats came out early in the first inning and we were hitting the ball very well, and then as we went along it just slowly died out. Luckily we had good defense working for us tonight and we didn’t allow anything too major.”

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The visiting Tigers (3-10) threatened early with a pair of hits by University of West Georgia signee Angela Tucker and College of Central Florida signee Leah Clark but both were left stranded in the top of the first.

Photo by C.J. Gish Williston pitcher Nevaeh Hayes struck out eight Union County batters on Thursday.

They needed all the offense they could get since starting pitcher Lilly Neal was out sick and Williston (17-2) was averaging nine runs per game.

Freshman Leigh Ann Dicks got the start in the circle.

“That’s a sophomore and a freshman that we had out there,” Union County coach James Godwin said of his two young pitchers who faced the high-powered Red Devils. “The freshman got beat up and the sophomore (Shyla Crowe) came in and shut them down, surprisingly.”

In the bottom of the first inning, Williston 8th-grader Luna Asencion tripled to right field to start the inning.

Starting pitcher Nevaeh Hayes then grounded a ball to second base, however, Maggie Thomas fired it from short range and it went past first baseman Hannah Rivera, allowing Asencion to score on the play.

College of Central Florida signee Raegan Geiger doubled to left centerfield to put two on with no outs.

The assault continued when Eastern Florida State College signee Olivia Davis doubled to left centerfield to drive in two more runs for a 3-0 lead.

“Liv’s bat is starting to come back around again,” Williams said. “She had gone through a slump where everything she was hitting was right at someone but now she’s starting to find the gaps and making big plays.”

The bottom of the order also contributed for the Red Devils.

No. 7 hitter Karley Jerrels, a Florida Gateway College signee, singled in a run to make it 4-0.

After Eastern Florida State College signee Maci Vonderstrasse’s sacrifice bunt to plate another run, No. 9 hitter Baylee Cribbs, a freshman, tripled in the sixth run of the inning.

“Baylee is just coming back from injury and she’s starting to see the ball well,” Williams said. “She was out for three weeks (back injury) so whatever I get from her, I’m ecstatic about it.”

Photo by C.J. Gish Union County's Angela Tucker rounds the bases after hitting a third inning home run at Williston on Thursday.

Godwin knew it would be tough to come back from a 6-0 deficit.

“Against a team like that, sure,” he said. “They don’t make mistakes.”

In the top of the second inning, Hayes began to settle down.

The University of West Florida commit retired the side in order as part of seven in a row.

However, Tucker put the Tigers on the board with a solo home run to center field.

Williston's Karley Jerrels snags the first out of the fourth inning against visiting Union County on Thursday.
Photo by C.J. Gish Williston's Karley Jerrels snags the first out of the fourth inning against visiting Union County on Thursday.

“I said earlier in the year that she would probably hit for power this year and that was her first home run on the season,” Godwin said. “We’ve played in two different ballparks that were 220, and one I think was 240, and she hit two off the fence there and if we had been at any other ballpark we’d be sitting on three now. She’s been typically a slapper and in the fall we started strike swinging her and she’s come a long ways.”

Union County took advantage of two hit batters and an error to plate their second run of the game, which was unearned.

However, that’s the last run that the Tigers would push across the plate.

Despite walking four and hitting three batters, Hayes only allowed three hits in 6.1 innings.

“We had bad plate appearances tonight,” Godwin said. “We typically don’t swing at pitches like we’ve swung at this year. The other night (Tuesday’s 17-16 win vs. Santa Fe in nine innings) we had really, really good plate appearances and when you swing at strikes you usually can hit them, especially with the kids that I’ve got. Tonight. we weren’t very disciplined at the plate until late.”

Hayes pitched well at times. She struck out eight, including five in the first three innings.

“She was on and off,” Williams said. “She started off early and was pitching really well, she got in a groove, and then it’s like I’ve said to her in the past, ‘you can’t allow the calls that you don’t get to get in your head,’ and that’s what happened, and then she hurt her back.”

Hayes exited the game with one out in the seventh and reliever Makenna Boyd got the final two outs to secure their 17th win of the season.

Meanwhile, Crowe entered in the first inning and only allowed three hits the rest of the way.

Union County will host Trenton at 7 p.m. on Friday, while Williston will host Interlachen at 7 p.m. on Tuesday.

Photo by C.J. Gish Williston coach Carl Williams congratulates Baylee Cribbs on her first inning tripple against visiting Union County on Thursday.

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