Suwannee learning to win

It was just a matter of time for the Suwannee (Live Oak) softball team.

Following Tuesday night’s 3-1 loss at Gainesville, the Bulldogs dropped to 1-5 with four losses in a row by a total of seven runs, including two home losses in extra innings to Florida High (Tallahassee), 2-0 (11), and Bradford (Starke), 6-5 (8).

“Our struggle for wins is just the fact that we’re losing really close ball games,” first-year coach Terry Mixon said after the loss at GHS.

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Last year at this point, the Bulldogs were 0-8 before getting their first win on March 16.

“I told the team ‘you were getting blown out, you were getting run-ruled,’ this year we’re competitive but we have to try and find a way to win a ball game,” Mixon said. “You’re frustrated, I’m frustrated, but keep plugging, keep going, we’re going to win some ball games.”

On Thursday, they finally broke through.

Suwannee pitcher Karis Smith has a 2.02 ERA and leads the Bulldogs with a .388 batting average

The Bulldogs exploded for a season-high 15 runs in a 15-0 win in three innings against visiting Godby (Tallahassee). Eight players had at least one run driven in, led by senior Kazlee Rodriguez with two RBI.

Pitcher Karis Smith (2.02 earned run average), the granddaughter of Coach Mixon, picked up the win in the circle. She allowed no hits, no walks, and struck out seven.

The senior struck out 17 in the loss to Florida High and 13 against Bradford.

Thursday’s contest was the first time this season that Suwannee had not committed an error.

Prior to the game against Godby, the Bulldogs (2-5) had made 17 errors in six games.

“We’re out there, instead of getting three outs in an inning we’re having to get four and five outs in an inning two or three times during the game and that’s tough on a pitcher,” Mixon explained.

Smith leads the team with a .388 batting average and a .519 on base percentage. The Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College signee is second with three doubles and has the team’s only home run.

Suwannee's Braylyn Federico (14) is one of the offensive leaders with a .333 batting average

Sophomore Braylyn Federico (.333) and senior Brooklyn Deas (.304) also lead the ‘Dogs offensively.

Mixon, who played baseball at ABAC and Georgia Southern, was a former baseball coach at Suwannee from 1981-85. 

He stepped away from the game and coached golf for 18 years, and then took over for Ronnie Gray and coached the Bulldogs’ baseball team from 2013-16.

But this is the first time Mixon has coached softball.

“The game is a little different, not a lot, but like in baseball with a runner on first and one out you don’t normally bunt, but in softball you bunt a lot,” he said. “That’s something that I’m having to get used to. But it’s a great game. It’s a lot more exciting to me. I’m having a good time.”

Suwannee softball coach Terry Mixon

Rachel Smith, a sophomore outfielder and pitcher, is also Mixon’s granddaughter.

“Coaching two granddaughters is really unique and it’s a blessing,” Mixon said. “When last year’s coach resigned, the first thing they did was come to me and say, ‘Papa, you’ve got to coach this year,’ and I was reluctant to coach because I was retired and hadn’t coached in three years, but I let them talk me into it so it’s something I’m going to always cherish. It’s a lot of fun.”

Suwannee, which competes in Class 3A-District 2, is scheduled to play at Columbia (Lake City) tonight at 7 p.m. The Bulldogs will travel to Dixie County (Cross City) on Tuesday and host Gainesville on Thursday.

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