Cook, Williams lead GHS to easy playoff win

Gainesville's Rhianna Williams celebrates after hitting a two-run single in the second inning against Deltona in the Region 1-5A Quarterfinals on Thursday.
Gainesville's Rhianna Williams celebrates after hitting a two-run single in the second inning against Deltona in the Region 1-5A Quarterfinals on Thursday.
Photo by C.J. Gish

The hitting barrage continued for the Gainesville High softball team on Thursday night.

The No. 4 seed Hurricanes batted .455 as a team in a 12-1 win in five innings against No. 5 seed Deltona in an FHSAA Class 5A-Region 1 Quarterfinal at Boulware Ballpark.

GHS (21-4) finished with 12 runs on 10 hits, including six runs on six hits in the fourth inning to put the game away early.

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“It’s great in a playoff situation, a playoff game, it’s always good to come out and hit the ball the way we did tonight,” said Gainesville coach Chris Chronister. “The girls were focused. They came out ready to play and from the very first inning we were ready to hit, and it shows on the scoreboard. We put up some runs tonight.”

Deltona (18-6) threatened early as the first five batters of the game reached base safely.

Gainesville's Josie Kirwan catches the second out in the fourth inning against Deltona in the Region 1-5A Quarterfinals on Thursday.
Photo by C.J. Gish Gainesville’s Josie Kirwan catches the second out in the fourth inning against Deltona in the Region 1-5A Quarterfinals on Thursday.

Hurricanes’ starting pitcher Leanna Bourdage hit leadoff batter Sophia Weinrich, who later scored on a bunt single to first base by Jaylene Mieres.

But with only one out and the bases loaded, Bourdage (5 IP, 1 ER, 6 H, 4 BB, 7 K) struck out the next two batters to get out of the jam.

“I struggled a little bit finding control and they were laying off the rise ball so I knew that I had to go a little bit lower in the zone and get it to where he [umpire] would call it a strike,” she said.

In the bottom of the first, senior Elise Knopf walked and junior McKenna O’Sullivan (2-for-2, RBI, 3 RS) singled to lead off the inning.

Bourdage grounded out to the pitcher for the first out, which then brought junior catcher Braylin Cook to the plate.

Cook, who was named the Pavlik Orthodontics Athlete of the Week after hitting four home runs in last week’s district tournament, launched a pitch from Deltona starter Cici Ortiz out of the park to straight away center field to give the Hurricanes a 3-1 lead.

“She’s on fire, I don’t know, she’s just feeling it,” Chronister said. “Confidence, it breeds confidence, so when things are going good, they’ll continue to go good so we’re hoping they continue to go good the rest of the playoffs because she is really hitting hot.”

The Hurricanes never trailed again.

“We did struggle in the first inning but once you get it started, we keep going,” said junior designated player Rihanna Williams. “I’m just really proud of this team. We’ve worked so hard, putting extra reps in after practice on the pitching machine.”

Gainesville's Leanna Bourdage struck out seven and allowed only one run in a 12-1 win over Deltona in the Region 1-5A Quarterfinals on Thursday.
Photo by C.J. Gish Gainesville’s Leanna Bourdage struck out seven and allowed only one run in a 12-1 win over Deltona in the Region 1-5A Quarterfinals on Thursday.

Williams (2-for-2, DBL, 3 RBI, RS), who bats fifth behind Cook, extended the lead to 5-0 in the bottom of the third inning on a single to center field.

“She’s been hitting her pitch,” Cook said of Williams. “Before she was swinging at high balls but she’s made the adjustment to hit her pitch and make sure she’s on time and looking down, everything. She’s just doing way better, I love it for her.”

The following inning she added an RBI double to left field, and the rout was on.

“We need Rihanna in that spot because we’ve talked about it before, some teams are going to try and pitch around Braylin, and if they start putting Braylin on, we need somebody behind her to protect her, make them pitch to her, and Rihanna is really coming through for us,” Chronister said. “She had a huge night tonight for us.”

Cook (2-for-2, HR, 4 RBI, 3 RS) also had an RBI single in the fourth inning as the Hurricanes sent nine batters to the plate.

Deltona did have their chances throughout the game.

In fact, the Wolves stranded 10 runners through five innings and twice had the bases loaded.

Bourdage struck out the final batter of the inning in each of the five innings.

Gainesville's Braylin Cook (leg up) put the Hurricanes up to stay with a three-run home run in the first inning against Deltona in the Region 1-5A Quarterfinals on Thursday.
Photo by C.J. Gish Gainesville’s Braylin Cook (leg up) put the Hurricanes up to stay with a three-run home run in the first inning against Deltona in the Region 1-5A Quarterfinals on Thursday.

“She excelled as always,” said Bourdage’s catcher. “Sometimes she gets in her head because of the walks and stuff. You can see how that could affect somebody, the first batter of the inning and it’s a walk…but it doesn’t affect her. She just goes out there and pitches and it works out for her. It works out for everybody.”

The combination of barrage and Bourdage overwhelmed Deltona and sent the Hurricanes on to the regional semifinals.

GHS will play at top-seed Middleburg on Tuesday night in a rematch of last Thursday’s district title game, a 4-0 win by the Hurricanes on the road behind Bourdage’s no-hitter.

The Broncos (22-4) eliminated No. 8 seed Columbia (Lake City), 4-1, in the other regional quarterfinal to advance.

It’s also a rematch of the 2022 5A-Region 1 Semifinals, a 5-1 win by Middleburg, which went on to win its first state title in program history.

The winner will advance to next Friday’s regional final.

FHSAA SOFTBALL – SCORES

Thursday, May 9

Class 5A-Region 1 Quarterfinals

1 Middleburg 4, 8 Columbia (Lake City) 1

4 Gainesville 12, 5 Deltona 1 (5)

Class 1A-Region 3 Semifinals

1 Branford 4, 4 Aucilla Christian (Monticello) 3

2 Fort White 5, 3 Madison County 1

Class 1A-Region 4 Semifinals

1 Trenton 11, 4 Newberry 0 (5)

2 Williston 7, 3 Chiefland 1

Gainesville coach Chris Chronister (right) discusses strategy prior to Adriana Koralewski's (white helmet) hit that scored two fourth-inning runs against Deltona in the Region 1-5A Quarterfinals on Thursday.
Photo by C.J. Gish Gainesville coach Chris Chronister (right) discusses strategy prior to Adriana Koralewski’s (white helmet) hit that scored two fourth-inning runs against Deltona in the Region 1-5A Quarterfinals on Thursday.
Gainesville's Adriana Koralewski gets an out at first base in the fourth inning against Deltona in the Region 1-5A Quarterfinals on Thursday.
Photo by C.J. Gish Gainesville’s Adriana Koralewski gets an out at first base in the fourth inning against Deltona in the Region 1-5A Quarterfinals on Thursday.

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