GHS faces Archbishop McCarthy in Thursday’s 5A semifinals

The Gainesville softball team sports a 23-4 record as it enters its first state semifinals game since 2016 on Thursday.
The Gainesville softball team sports a 23-4 record as it enters its first state semifinals game since 2016 on Thursday.
Photo by C.J. Gish

Last year, the Gainesville High softball team won just six games all season.

In less than three weeks the Hurricanes have won five.

In 2024 they have more than exceeded expectations.

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In fact, following five straight postseason wins in the FHSAA district and regional playoffs, including three on the road, the Hurricanes (23-4) are in the final four for the first time in eight years.

GHS will play Archbishop McCarthy (Fort Lauderdale) at noon on Thursday in the FHSAA Class 5A state semifinals at Legends Way Ball Fields in Clermont.

You can listen to the game online (free audio) at Mainstreet Daily News beginning at 11:50 a.m.

“We don’t have a lot of information on them, but we know that all the teams in the final four are going to be good teams with strong pitching and solid lineups,” said Gainesville coach Chris Chronister. “Of course, the girls are excited about our run in the playoffs, but we have talked about the level of competition increasing with every game we play.”

GHS had wins in the district tournament against Columbia (Lake City) and at top seed Middleburg to win the 5A-District 2 title.

As a number four seed in 5A-Region 1, Gainesville was able to knock off the No. 1 and No. 3 seeds on the road.

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 is 18-3 this season with a 0.52 ERA and 230 strikeouts.

GHS opened the state playoffs with a dominating 12-1 win in five innings against No. 8 seed Deltona, followed by a 6-0 upset at top seed Middleburg and a 3-0 win at No. 3 seed Gulf Breeze in the regional final to make it back to the state semifinals since winning the Class 7A state title in 2016.

The other three teams who advanced to Clermont were No. 1 seeds.

Parrish Community, the top overall seed of the four 5A state semifinalists, will play Region 2 No. 1 Horizon (Winter Garden) at 10 a.m. in the first state semifinal.

The championship game is at 4:30 p.m. on Friday.

“Except for our first game in the district playoff and our first game in the regional playoffs we have been the underdog, having to travel to Middleburg twice and to Gulf Breeze,” Chronister said. “We have taken on the road warrior mentality, so we are treating our game against Archbishop McCarthy as our first game of a tournament that we need to win to advance to the second day of the tournament.”

Leading the way for the Hurricanes this year has been newcomer Leanna Bourdage, both offensively and in the circle.

Bourdage is 18-3 this season with a 0.52 ERA.

She has nine shutouts, including 18 straight scoreless playoff innings, and three no-hitters.

In 121.2 innings pitched, the freshman has only allowed nine earned runs with 230 strikeouts and only 40 walks.

“Her presence in the circle gives the team a lot of confidence,” Chronister said. “To be successful in Clermont, we are going to have to continue playing our game which starts with playing good defense behind solid pitching and continuing to have good at-bats throughout the lineup.”

Gainesville's Braylin Cook
Photo by C.J. Gish Gainesville’s Braylin Cook leads the Hurricanes with a .466 batting average and 12 home runs this season.

In her last outing at Gulf Breeze, Bourdage finished the night with 12 strikeouts and only allowed three hits, all singles.

“Leanna has been remarkable all season, but especially in the playoffs,” Chronister said. “She pitches with a poise and determination in the circle that is rare for a freshman, but she has put in many years of hard work to get herself to this position.”

At the plate, Bourdage is third on the team with a .381 average, second in on base percentage (.512 OBP), third in RBI (21), second in home runs (7), second in run scored (38), and second in stolen bases (11).

She also had what proved to be the game-winning hit, a solo home run in the third inning for a 1-0 lead in the regional final.

Junior catcher Braylin Cook leads the team in hitting (.466), OBP (.576), RBI (43), slugging percentage (1.150), and home runs (12), which includes three home runs in the win against Columbia.

Cook is tied for the team lead in doubles with junior McKenna O’Sullivan (10).

O’Sullivan, who leads the team with 37 hits, is second in hitting (.420) and RBI (33).

Both teams are capable of putting up a lot of runs.

The ‘Canes, who are averaging 8.7 per game, have outscored their three regional opponents, 21-1, while the Mavericks (16-5), who are averaging 7.9 rpg, have outscored their opponents, 38-5.

GHS is batting .330 as a team and Archbishop McCarthy is hitting .332, led by Sienna Garcia (.524), Chantale Guillou (.438) and Cheyanne Chaffin (.403).

Archbishop McCarthy, which advanced to its first final four in softball, is also led by Garcia in the circle.

The junior is 10-4 with a 1.11 ERA (13 earned runs) and has 105 strikeouts and 40 walks in 82 innings pitched.

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