Branford wins 10th straight

Branford pitcher Laila Arnold improved to 13-1 in the circle on Thursday.
Photo by Mike Ridaught

The streak continues for the Branford softball team.

On Thursday night in Lake Butler, the Bucs broke a 5-5 tie with two runs in the sixth inning for a 7-6 Class 1A-District 6 win at Union County to sweep the two-game series.

It was the 10th straight win for the Bucs (19-2).

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“These girls want it,” said Branford coach Oscar Saavedra. “All year they’ve worked hard, so they deserve it. They put in the time and it shows. Our bats came to life at the right time. Tonight, they hit the ball well.”

Branford, which is ranked No. 2 in Class 1A by MaxPreps, finished with 15 hits in the game, including four in the top of the sixth.

“Hits won it tonight,” Saavedra said. “It’s usually in the circle.”

With one out and one on in the top of the sixth, sophomore Madyson Sikes (3-for-4, 2 RBI, 3 RS) singled to centerfield off Union County junior pitcher Lilly Neal.

Sophomore Morgan Brennan (3-for-4) singled to left field to load the bases.

Clean-up hitter Ellie Frierson grounded to third and the Tigers’ Mackenzie Orton got the force out at home for the second out.

It appeared Neal might get out of the inning.

However, sophomore Alex Whitfield (3-for-4) hit a hard ground ball to first that deflected off of first baseman Hannah Rivera’s glove. The ball was picked up at second but the throw to first was called safe, prompting Union County coach James Godwin to come out of the dugout to talk to the base umpire who called Whitfield safe.

Photo by Mike Ridaught Branford's dugout in Thursday's game at Union County.

Godwin was ejected for questioning the call, which stood up and gave Branford a 6-5 lead.

The next batter, eighth-grader Ashlee Combee, reached on an error at third base, scoring Brennan for a 7-5 lead.

“We’ve still got to clean our defense up,” Godwin said. “We gave them several of those runs and if we play good defense we probably win this game 6-4. We’ve got to clean things up if we’re going to beat good teams.”

Union County (4-12) did answer in the bottom of the sixth.

College of Central Florida signee Leah Clark (2-for-4, 2 RS) had a bunt single, stole second and then stole third. She scored on a ground out by University of West Georgia signee Tamia Young (3 RBI) to make it a one-run game.

Following the putout, sophomore pitcher Laila Arnold retired the final four batters she faced, including three by strikeout. She finished the game with 12 strikeouts to improve to 13-1.

“I think she pitched well,” Saavedra said. “She got frustrated but fought through it. That’s what she does.”

Branford led 1-0 early, scoring a run in the first on back-to-back doubles by Brennan and Frierson.

In the third, Sikes hit a 2-run home run over the left field fence for a 3-0 lead. It was her team-leading sixth homer of the year.

The Tigers, who lost 3-2 at Branford on Feb. 24, rallied to take the lead in the bottom of the third inning.

They sent nine batters to the plate and scored four runs, with Young’s 2-run double being the biggest hit.

Branford reclaimed the lead with two runs in the fifth inning.

Sikes led off the inning with a double and scored on a single by Brennan to center field followed by a fielding error.

Senior Makayla Williams (2-for-4) singled in Brennan for a 5-4 lead.

Union County will travel to Santa Fe (Alachua) on Monday, while Branford will host top-ranked Williston on Friday at 7 p.m. in a Class 1A No. 1 vs. No. 2 showdown.

Both teams are also ranked in the top 12 of the all-classification regional rankings.

“We have nothing to lose, win or lose,” Saavedra said. “Same thing goes for them. It’s bragging rights. We’re on a great path to go to state, but so are they. It’s going to be exciting.”

P.K. Yonge's Lane, left, and Luke Sparkman.
Courtesy of Arnold Feliciano P.K. Yonge's Lane, left, and Luke Sparkman.

P.K. Yonge 14, Williston 1 (6 innings)

It was the Sparkman brothers' baseball show Thursday for P.K. Yonge in its 14-1 win at Williston.

Lane, a senior, tossed a six-inning three-hitter with eight strikeouts, improving his record to 4-1 and P.K. Yonge’s to 15-7.

He also hit a run-scoring double, single and scored three times.

Luke, a junior left fielder, drilled a three-run home run off the scoreboard located over the centerfield fence in the Blue Wave’s four-run fifth inning that gave them a 9-1 lead over the Red Devils (5-16).

The Blue Wave swept the two-game season series with the Red Devils, after winning 15-0 in four innings two months ago in Gainesville.

Nick Roach also was a big part of P.K. Yonge’s 10-hit assault, getting two hits, including a two-run triple.

P.K. Yonge closes its regular season with three games next week: Monday at Interlachen and home games Tuesday against Eastside and Thursday (Senior Night) vs. Saint Francis. 

The District 4-3A tourney begins the first week in May at Trinity Catholic in Ocala.

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