In its biggest game in program history, a freshman made the difference for Fort White in Tuesday night’s Class 1A-Region 3 Final against visiting Union County (Lake Butler).
Kadence Compton struck out 14 batters and tossed a 2-hitter as the Indians (15-7) shut out the visiting Tigers, 4-0, to advance to their first final four.
“You can’t ask for a better performance out of a freshman,” said Fort White’s Chad Padgett, who has been co-head coach with his wife, Michele, for 10 years. “A lot of pressure on her.”
Compton, who now has 201 strikeouts this season, kept Union County (18-6) off balance all night.
She struck out at least one batter in every inning and she struck out at least two per inning in six of the seven innings.
“She hits spots,” Michele said.
She also drove in three runs, including a towering two-run shot off the scoreboard in left center field in the bottom of the sixth inning to put the game away and sent the Indians to Clermont next Tuesday.
“It feels really great,” Compton said. “I couldn’t do it without the team.”
Compton’s first RBI came in the bottom of the first inning as Fort White would score the only two runs it would need off of starting Tigers’ pitcher Meghan Sullivan.
Gracie Clemons led off with a hit and then Compton doubled down the left field line for a 1-0 lead.
Clemons finished 3-for-3 with two runs scored.
“We moved her to leadoff this year and she got so excited, that’s a lot of pressure, especially our district, is something else, and she just got so excited ‘I love it, I love it,’ and that’s been a great spot for her,” Michele said.
Later in the inning, Kaitlyn Suggs singled home Ciara Boyd, who had been hit by a pitch, for a 2-0 lead.
“It definitely gave me more confidence, like way more comfortable,” Compton said.
Just like the baseball team, the Fort White softball team will make its first appearance in a final four.
“It’s a big deal,” Chad said. “Columbia County has three teams in the final four. For a small county like ours, you don’t see that very often and I’m proud of our baseball team, Columbia’s baseball team, and our girls.”
To which Michele replied, “And we’ve stayed married through it.”
There was laughter, but probably a sense of relief knowing the Indians had just won their first region final in softball.
The Indians will play at either noon or 2 p.m. on Tuesday in the Class 1A state semifinals. Dixie County (Cross City) also advanced with a 9-0 win at home against Taylor (Pierson).
In other action, Keystone Heights defeated Providence in Jacksonville, 3-1, in a Class 3A-Region 1 Semifinal to improve to 19-9. The Indians led 2-0 after a half inning of play and it proved to be the difference on the road against the Stallions (19-7).
The No. 3 seed Indians will travel to top seed Baldwin on Friday for the region final. Baldwin defeated No. 5 seed Florida High (Tallahassee), 12-0, in the other regional semifinal.
The winner of Friday’s game advances to next week’s state semifinals in Clermont.
Gainesville’s season came to an end with a 5-1 loss at Middleburg. The Hurricanes, who were Class 5A-District 4 champions this season, finished 13-14.
And in baseball, Suwannee (Live Oak) defeated Bishop Kenny (Jacksonville), 5-3, thanks to a three-run fifth inning. The Bulldogs also finished with 10 hits in the game and ended the Crusaders (21-7) 12-game winning streak.
The Bulldogs (24-4) will play Island Coast (Cape Coral) at 4 p.m. on Monday in the Class 4A state semifinals at Hammond Stadium in Fort Myers.
Regional Playoffs – Tuesday, May 17
Class 1A-Region 3 Final
No. 1 Dixie County (Cross City) 4, No. 3 Union County (Lake Butler) 0
Class 1A-Region 4
No. 1 Dixie County (Cross City) 9, No. 2 Taylor (Pierson) 0
Class 3A-Region 1 Semifinals
No. 3 Keystone Heights 3, No. 2 Providence (Jacksonville) 1
Class 5A-Region 1 Semifinals
No. 2 Middleburg 5, No. 3 Gainesville 1
Class 4A-Region 1 Final
No. 1 Suwannee (Live Oak) 5, No. 2 Bishop Kenny (Jacksonville) 3