The Gainesville softball team took advantage of some early opportunities in its home game against rival Santa Fe (Alachua) on Tuesday night.
The Hurricanes sent 10 batters to the plate in the first inning and scored five runs, setting the tone in a 9-5 win against the Raiders.
“It was a really good start for us,” said Gainesville coach Chris Chronister. “It always helps when you can get on the board early, and when you can put up five in the first inning it lets your defense play a little bit looser and it put us in a good position.”
Santa Fe College signee Jayla Clark (2-for-4, RBI, 2 runs scored) led off the bottom of the first with an infield hit, stole second and then scored on a throwing error by Raiders’ starting pitcher Brooklyn MacDougall, who left the game after the Hurricanes (7-6) batted around.
Mercer University signee Parris Wiggs walked and scored on a hard-hit ball to third by Braylin Cook after the bases were loaded. Two batters later, Michaela Cromarty lined out to right field to drive in a run for a 3-0 lead.
Following a walk to Cailin Fouraker, No. 9 hitter Aa’laysia Williams singled in two more runs for a 5-0 lead.
Santa Fe (6-5) answered with a run in the top of the second on an RBI single by Kaydence Davis. However, Williams threw out MacDougall from right field to end the inning.
GHS extended the lead to 7-1 in the bottom of the second on a 2-RBI single by Cromarty off of reliever Madi Hewett (10 strikeouts in 5 1/3 innings pitched).
“I’ve kind of been in a slump but I picked it up during the Williston game (March 18) and I decided, ‘why not me, why can’t I do it,’ so I did it tonight for us,” Cromarty said.
Cromarty, who bats seventh in the lineup, finished 1-for-2 with 3 RBI and a run scored.
“Michaela had a great game, good at-bats,” Chronister said. “She’s a good hitter, her average doesn’t really show that this year, but she’s a strong hitter.”
Santa Fe’s Shelby Coonce connected for an RBI single in the fourth inning, and Maddie Martin added an RBI on a ground out.
However, GHS only made one error in the game and added two more runs in the fifth on an RBI single by Clark and an RBI triple by Wiggs for a 9-3 lead.
“I was really happy with our offense and our defense tonight,” Chronister said. “Defensively I was really happy with the girls. I told them after the game that’s what we’re looking for.”
Gainesville, which committed a whopping 34 errors in its first six games, has committed only nine errors in its last seven games.
“They’ve been working really hard on that in practice, making better decisions,” Chronister said. “I think part of that was mental early in the season so we’re a little bit further ahead, definitely playing smarter defense, and a lot cleaner defense.”
Kyra Hornsby picked up the win in the circle, ending the game with a strikeout.
The victory evened the series against the Raiders, who defeated the ‘Canes, 6-2, in Alachua on March 1.
“It’s always good to beat Santa Fe, a rival, they beat us earlier this year,” Chronister. “We needed that win in a big way.”
Santa Fe will travel to Class 1A No. 1 Union County (Lake Butler) on Thursday, while Gainesville will play a Class 5A-District 4 game at Vanguard (Ocala) at 7 p.m. on Wednesday.