Bulldogs blank Bobcats, spoil Senior Night

Suwannee's Braylyn Federico beats the throw home to Buchholz catcher Juliana Abraham to put the visiting Bulldogs up 7-0 in the top of the fifth inning.
Suwannee's Braylyn Federico beats the throw home to Buchholz catcher Juliana Abraham to put the visiting Bulldogs up 7-0 in the top of the fifth inning.
Photo by C.J. Gish

The Buchholz softball team has had some big moments this year.

They beat rival GHS for the first time in 10 years and they won double-digit games for the first time since 2014.

But on Tuesday night, visiting Suwannee (Live Oak) came up big with a mercy rule 10-0 win to spoil Senior Night.

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“It was definitely an emotional night for these girls (seniors Taylor McClain, Amelia Collins, and Morgan Campbell),” said Buchholz coach Will Hooper, who noted the trio will miss their final home game on Friday against Keystone Heights due to Grad Bash. “So technically this is their Senior Night and the last time they’re playing on their home field, so it was pretty emotional for them. We gave them all an opportunity to start in the outfield, but Suwannee is a solid team.”

Buchholz's Madison Blackford steals second base in the bottom of the first inning against Suwannee.
Photo by C.J. Gish Buchholz’s Madison Blackford steals second base in the bottom of the first inning against Suwannee.

Offensively, the Bulldogs (11-9) finished with 16 hits.

“We hit the ball pretty well, even some of the ones that were putouts,” said second-year Suwannee coach Greg Gabey. “We hit the ball hard. We just hit it right at them, but they’re definitely seeing the ball and it’s best to be playing your best softball at the end of the season and that’s what we’re looking to do.”

Seven players had a pair of hits for Suwannee.

Suwannee pitcher Gracie Watley struck out 12 Bobcats in a one-hit shutout against Buchholz.
Photo by C.J. Gish Suwannee pitcher Gracie Watley struck out 12 Bobcats in a one-hit shutout against Buchholz.

Suwannee catcher Haley Law (2-for-3, 2 runs) led off the game by popping up to catcher Juliana Abraham behind the plate.

However, Abraham dropped the ball, opening the door for Law.

The senior then drove a ball over the head of McClain in left field for a double.

Center fielder Brianna Stephens (2-for-4, one run) followed with a single to left field but the throw home from third baseman Jayda Cooper hit Law, who scored the first run of the game.

A couple of batters later, senior Rachel Smith (2-for-4, RBI) grounded out to third to score Stephens for a 2-0 lead.

Suwannee sent nine batters to the plate and scored four runs on five hits for a 6-0 lead in the second inning.

In the circle, Suwannee pitcher Gracie Watley threw a one-hitter and struck out 12 batters.

“We were a little behind in the timing of their pitcher,” Hooper said. “She was hitting her spots, and it was just tough. We’ve been pretty strong offensively all year…but tonight we couldn’t put anything on the board offensively.”

The sophomore had at least two strikeouts in every inning but the fourth.

“That’s probably the most strikeouts we’ve had all year in a game,” said Hooper, who didn’t face GHS’ Leanna Bourdage this year but said that Watley was “hands down” the best pitcher his team has faced this season.

Buchholz's Taylor McClain attempts a bunt in the bottom of the fourth inning against Suwannee.
Photo by C.J. Gish Buchholz’s Taylor McClain attempts a bunt in the bottom of the fourth inning against Suwannee.

Watley, who was a Mainstreet Daily News All Area first team selection last year, walked just two and allowed only three baserunners all night.

“She’s been battling some injuries with her knee, kind of tender, but she’s been battling through it,” Gabey said. “We set a goal for 200 strikeouts for the regular season and we’re still trying to push forward to that.”

Junior Emily Sorah prevented the no-hitter with a leadoff single to center field in the third inning.

She advanced to second on an error but was left stranded there as Watley battled back to strike out the side.

Buchholz's Jayda Cooper makes the catch at third base and tagged Suwannee's Layla Merola for the final out in the top of the fifth inning.
Photo by C.J. Gish Buchholz’s Jayda Cooper makes the catch at third base and tagged Suwannee’s Layla Merola for the final out in the top of the fifth inning.

“Emily’s been pretty consistent for us this year,” Hooper said. “We rotate her at catcher and first base, and she bats in the No. 8 spot, but she’s been pretty consistent all year…Emily has definitely come through in the clutch at certain times and been huge for us.”

Suwannee, which has won four of its last five, will host Gadsden County on Thursday, while Buchholz (10-10) will try and snap a four-game losing streak when it visits Forest (Ocala).

The first pitch for both games is at 7 p.m.

“We knew tonight was going to be a challenge facing their pitcher,” Hooper said. “We knew we couldn’t give up too many opportunities for them to turn around and capitalize and we did tonight, but it’s good to face some tougher competition going into districts and understanding, hey we’re going to have to make a little bit of adjustments when we see some of these top notch pitchers, especially the ones that have the ability to strike us out, and be a little more disciplined at the plate. I definitely think it humbles us just a little bit.”

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