Santa Fe pitcher Sarah Burns knew it was going to be a close game against Crystal River on Thursday.
What she didn’t expect was the final result both on the scoreboard and from her performance.
As a freshman seeing her first state playoff action entering the Region 2-3A Quarterfinal contest, her outing would be a memorable one as the No. 5 seed Raiders pulled out a 1-0 win over the No. 4 seed Pirates and with Burns throwing 17 strikeouts.
Burns, who led the Raiders (16-9) with a 1.62 ERA and 91 strikeouts for the season, brushed aside teammates’ asking her before the game if she was nervous.
“And then as soon as I stepped on the field I was like ‘OK, I’m nervous,’” she said. “But as soon as we got the first run, I was like ‘we got this, I know we can do this.’ And so I expected everything from my team that they were able to do.”
Santa Fe would score its lone run in the bottom of the second inning when sophomore J’lyn Guyden hit a double and sophomore Makenna Payne drove her home with a single three batters later.
For a team that averaged 7.7 runs per contest and a .390 team batting average coming into the contest, the 1-0 win went against the grain.
“We knew it was going to be a good game,” 16-year Santa Fe coach Gene Findley said. “Their pitcher is legit too and you look at her record and she’s got a lot of strikeouts this season and she had a good outing, so I figured it was going to be a tight game.”
With neither team threatening on offense, the defense and pitching stood out.
Then, in the sixth inning, Crystal River (17-10) looked to break the game wide open as they loaded the bases with two outs. The situation called for a timeout as Findley approached the circle to chat with Burns.
“You can watch her face sometimes and she gets a little flustered and she needs to regroup herself and we’ve got the catcher now who sees it and starts talking to her to calm her down a little bit and says, ‘refocus and go,’” Findley said of Burns.
The freshman agreed she needed time to regroup.
“I was shaking, I started getting a headache, I was like, ‘I need water, I need a break, I need something’ and so my coach called that timeout and I was able to collect myself and get back into it,” Burns said. “I just told myself, ‘come on, your team needs you to do this, keep going, keep fighting, don’t slow down.’”
Burns would then strike out the Pirates’ batter to close the inning.
Heading into the top of the seventh inning, Burns put the game away striking out three in a row.
On offense, Guyden led the Raiders going 2-for-2 with two doubles while freshman Maddie Crosby added a double.
Santa Fe will travel to No. 1 seed Hernando, ranked fifth in Class 3A by MaxPreps, at 7 p.m. on Wednesday with its young roster.
“There is no senior out here, there’s a junior on the field and we have a junior that’s injured, so everyone else we have is freshman and sophomore, so they’re a bottle of nerves right now,” Findley said. “The last few games have been a roller coaster. They’ll make a couple mistakes but then they’ll come back and battle to get back into it.
“They were pretty nervous today coming out here out the gate. Hopefully, this helps us for our next game. They all play travel ball, but it’s a different scene when you come out here and battle for a state title or heading towards that way.”
Going against Hernando in the Region 2-3A Semifinals will be a tough task, but Findley knows there are things the Raiders can work on.
“I believe in negatives and positives,” Findley said. “Every game…you’ve never got a perfect game, so there’s always some negative things you can talk about and then you end up with the positives, so there’s some things we made notes on that we will work on before next game to try and make it a little tighter, a little better.”
Thursday’s noon game was originally set for 7 p.m. Wednesday, but 90 minutes of weather delays led to the reschedule.
Branford 3, Fort White 0
Meanwhile, the Branford softball team, which is ranked third in the state in Class 1A by MaxPreps, lost to Fort White, 7-0, a week ago in the Class 1A-District 6 title game.
But on Thursday night, the Buccaneers (23-4) shut out the Indians, 3-0, to advance to Tuesday’s regional final.
Fort White, which advanced to its first final four in program history last year, finished the season at 10-10.
Williston 15, Newberry 0
In the Class 1A-Region 4 Semifinals, top seed Williston cruised to a 15-0 win against No. 4 Newberry in four innings.
Senior Cheyenne Boggs led the Red Devils with 3 RBI and finished 2-for-3 with a double. Freshmen Brooklyn Bertrand and Aubrey Bertrand each drove in a pair of runs.
Dixie County 3, Trenton 1
In the other regional semifinals, No. 2 seed Dixie County (Cross City) eliminated No. 3 Trenton, 3-1, scoring three runs in the third inning and ending the Tigers’ season at 16-9.
It will be the Bears (20-5) and the Red Devils (26-2) in Tuesday’s regional final for the right to advance to Clermont and the Class 1A state semifinals.
Chiefland 7, Trenton 2
Last week the Trenton baseball team defeated rival Chiefland, 9-3, in the Class 1A-District 7 semifinals.
But on Thursday night, the No. 3 seed Indians returned the favor with a 7-2 win against the Tigers in the Class 1A-Region 4 Semifinals.
Chiefland (14-8) scored a pair of runs in the second inning for an early 2-0 lead. But it was a sacrifice fly and an RBI by Wade Gore for a 3-0 lead in the top of the third inning that proved to be the difference.
Trenton answered with a pair of runs in the bottom of the third to make it a one-run game. It stayed that way until the final inning when the Indians scored four runs on five hits to put the game on ice.
The Tigers’ season ended at 19-8, while Chiefland advanced to Saturday’s regional final at Newberry.
Newberry 4, Williston 2
The top-seed Panthers defeated No. 4 Williston, 4-2, in the other semifinal.
Newberry (15-8) scored three runs in the second inning and held on to end the Red Devils’ season at 8-19.
Softball results - Thursday, May 11
Class 1A-Region 3 Semifinals
1 Branford 3, 4 Fort White 0
Class 1A-Region 4 Semifinals
1 Williston 15, 4 Newberry 0 (4)
2 Dixie County (Cross City) 3, 3 Trenton 1
Class 3A-Region 2 Quarterfinals
5 Santa Fe (Alachua) 1, 4 Crystal River 0
Class 5A-Region 1 Quarterfinals
2 Deltona 4, 7 Columbia (Lake City) 2
Baseball results – Thursday, May 11
Class 1A-Region 4 Semifinals
1 Newberry 4, 4 Williston 2
3 Chiefland 7, 2 Trenton 2
Friday, May 12
Class 2A-Region 1 Semifinals
3 Oak Hall at 2 North Florida Christian (Tallahassee), 4 p.m.
Class 5A-Region 1 Semifinals
3 Lincoln (Tallahassee) at 2 Columbia (Lake City), 7 p.m.