Branford gets revenge, blasts Liberty County to return to state title game

Branford advanced to its second straight Class 1A state championship game on Friday after defeating Liberty, 13-3, in the state semifinals.
Branford advanced to its second straight Class 1A state championship game on Friday after defeating Liberty County, 13-3, in the state semifinals.
File photo by C.J Gish

The Branford Buccaneers softball team waited a full year to get revenge against Liberty County (Bristol) for a 7-4 loss in last year’s 1A state championship game.

That day finally came Friday and Branford left no doubt, pounding out 13 hits with two five-run innings to blast Liberty County, 13-3, in six innings in a 1A state semifinal at Legends Way Ballfields in Clermont.  

Branford (24-6) plays for the 1A state title at 2 p.m. on Saturday against Trenton. The Tigers edged Holmes County (Bonifay), 3-2, in the other semifinal.

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But first, the Buccaneers took care of business against a Bulldogs team that rallied a year ago to stun Branford.

“To come back last year against this same team is a great win,” Branford coach Oscar Saavedra said. “Everybody played hard and wanted it. We waited 365 days and finally got to play and did what we had to do to win.”

Branford took control in the bottom of the first. Alex Whitfield walked with one out and Jesse Frierson singled to bring in Whitfield for a 1-0 lead. Madyson Sikes added an RBI single to bring in Frierson for a 2-0 lead.

Branford broke the game open in the bottom of the second. Payten Bates singled, Ashlee Combee then bunted the ball in front of home plate and Liberty County catcher Lauren Davis threw the ball down the right field line. Bates and Combee came all the way around to score to make it 4-0.

Cloey Criggall then singled and after Morgan Brennan walked. Frierson followed with a three-run homer over the left field fence and Branford led 7-0.  

“It was great to see us start like that, but this team (Liberty County) was here for a reason,” Saavedra said. “I told the girls the game was still 0-0 and don’t let up, and they did just that.”

Liberty County (20-7) cut the deficit to 7-3 but Branford put the game on ice with another five-run inning in the fourth inning. The first five Buccaneer hitters of the inning reached, with three Liberty County errors, bringing in three runs for a 12-3 Branford lead.

Branford finally got the mercy-run rule in the sixth as Criggall brought in Dana Whitfield with a triple to make it 13-3.

Now the Buccaneers face Trenton (22-2), who beat them twice this season, 2-1 and 11-7. Saavedra welcomes another challenge.

“We will give them (Trenton) our best shot. They are a great team but we are a great team too,” Saavedra said. “It’s going to be a battle. May the best team win.”

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