GHS loses title heartbreaker in extra innings

Gainesville players receive their Class 5A championship runner-up medallions on Friday.
Gainesville players receive their Class 5A championship runner-up medallions on Friday.
Photo by Mike Ridaught

The Gainesville softball team has been road warriors for most of the FHSAA playoffs.

But in the Class 5A state championship game against defending state champion Parrish Community, the Bulls made one more play than the Hurricanes.

Cleanup hitter Ella Romano’s base hit to the gap in left center field scored catcher Carsyn Kull from third base in the bottom of the eighth inning to propel the Bulls (20-8) to their second straight title with a 3-2 win.

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GHS, which only won six games all of last season, finished 24-5 and state runners-up.

Gainesville coach Chris Chronister with the Class 5A state runner-up trophy on Friday.
Photo by Mike Ridaught Gainesville coach Chris Chronister with the Class 5A state runner-up trophy on Friday.

“It was really a special season, that’s the best way to say it,” said Gainesville coach Chris Chronister. “I’m so proud of these girls because the expectations were very low coming into the season. I’m sure nobody anywhere, except for our group, that’s what I told the girls, ‘Nobody expected us to be here except for us.’ We knew we had a good team, and we might have surprised some people earlier on in the season, but I think as we got later on into the season, getting to the district playoffs, beating Middleburg twice, beating some of the teams that we beat, I think it became clear that everybody knew that we had a good team at that point.”

The Hurricanes broke a scoreless tie in the top of the third inning.

Sophomore Roxy Walsh led off the inning with a walk against Palm Beach Atlantic commit Rylee Little.

Two batters later, junior Josie Kirwan, who bats ninth, singled to center field and then senior Elise Knopf had a bunt single on the first base line to load the bases with one out.

Junior McKenna O’Sullivan flew out to right field, scoring Walsh for a 1-0 lead.

GHS extended it to 2-0 in the top of the sixth.

With one out, freshman pitcher Leanna Bourdage singled to right field and junior catcher Braylin Cook doubled to right center field to put two runners in scoring position with one out.

Junior Rihanna Williams grounded out to second to score Bourdage, but sophomore Adriana Koralewsi lined out to shortstop Alex Call, who made a diving catch to her left to take away a hit and save a run.

After limiting Parrish Community to no hits through the first five innings, the Bulls broke through and answered in the bottom of the sixth.

Kull walked with one out and Alysa Jones singled. They both moved up on a passed ball.

Ella Romano and Hannah Lewis had RBI singles off of Bourdage (8 IP, 3 ER, 4 H, 5 BB, 1 HBP, 7 K) to tie the game at 2-2.

The Bulls had a chance to win it in regulation in the bottom of the seventh inning on a suicide squeeze bunt by leadoff hitter Kyndal France but Cook tagged out pinch runner Sophia Thomas on the shoulder at the plate.

Gainesville coach Chris Chronister talks to his team after falling 3-2 to Parrish Community in the Class 5A state championship on Friday.
Photo by Mike Ridaught Gainesville coach Chris Chronister talks to his team after falling 3-2 to Parrish Community in the Class 5A state championship on Friday.

A new extra inning rule implemented by the FHSAA this year at the state tournament allowed a runner at second base to start the inning.

So, in the eighth inning, Knopf started at second base and went to third on a ground out by O’Sullivan for the first out of the inning.

However, Little (8 IP, 2 ER, 3 H, 3 BB, 5 K) struck out Bourdage and Cook to end the threat.

Kull started the bottom of the eighth at second and went to third on a sacrifice bunt.

Romano followed with the game-winning hit, ending Gainesville’s seven game winning streak.

“This was the best senior season that I could have pictured,” said Knopf, GHS’ lone senior. “Even though we lost this game we made it this far. A lot of people underestimated our team this season especially considering our record last year but this year we came out, we did our job, it was an amazing senior season.”

With eight of nine starters returning next season, the future is bright for Hurricanes’ softball.

“We just have one senior, so I think we have a pretty strong core coming back,” Chronister said. “We’re looking forward to another good season next year but as I told them, this year we came in with no expectations, next year we have the target on our back, so everybody is going to know what they’re getting when GHS comes to town or when they come and visit us. We’re going to have a different mindset going into those games next year defending what we built this year.”

Editor’s note: This story was updated with the complete game recap.

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