It’s been a well-deserved break for the Union County softball team.
The Tigers, who are ranked No. 1 in the state in Class 1A by MaxPreps, took last week off for spring break.
Union County is the only undefeated team in the Mainstreet Daily News coverage area.
“I don’t really know how to put that into words other than these guys just don’t quit,” said fifth-year head coach James Godwin. “They really believe they’re going to win every time they take the field.”
So far, they have. The Tigers are currently 9-0 with three final inning victories this season.
In the season opener against Fort White, they trailed 1-0 entering the bottom of the seventh inning and scored twice to win it 2-1.
Junior shortstop Leah Clark singled, stole second, and scored on a RBI single by junior Tamia Young to tie the game at 1-1. After a wild pitch that advanced Young to third base, junior third baseman Hailey Rivera singled to left to score the game-winning run.
The Tigers also beat Dixie County (Cross City) in a preseason walk-off win the day before.
Against defending 1A state champion Trenton on March 4, they rallied again in their final at-bat.
After the visiting Tigers scored three runs in the top of the seventh inning for a 12-10 lead, the host Tigers answered with three runs in the bottom of the seventh to win it 13-12 in the first of two meetings between the two teams.
On Thursday, March 18, in a battle of unbeatens, top-ranked Union County scored five runs in the top of the seventh inning to beat then No. 2 Williston on the road, 8-3, handing the Red Devils their first loss of the season.
Union County batted around in its final at-bat, sending 10 batters to the plate and breaking a 3-3 tie.
Senior McKenzie Clemons, who was coming off a broken finger, singled up the middle to drive in what would prove to be the game-winning run for a 5-3 lead.
“Streaky hitting, timely hitting,” Godwin said about his team’s success offensively.
In their last game against Class 6A Buchholz (Gainesville) on Friday, March 19, the Lady Tigers exploded for 20 runs on 13 hits, led by junior Nyasia Williams with three doubles and three runs driven in and Young (2 doubles, 6 RBI).
Union County scored nine runs in the first and eight runs in the third and defeated the Bobcats, 20-2, in three innings. It was the sixth time that the Tigers had 10 or more runs in a game and the third time that they had scored 15 or more runs.
Everyone in the lineup seems to be contributing. As a team, they are batting .385 with 17 doubles, three triples, and a home run (Rivera).
“It’s a core group of juniors that I’ve had since they were freshmen,” Godwin said. “There’s eight of them who have played for me since their freshmen year and all eight of them started as freshmen so anytime you get that you’re fortunate.”
Junior Angela Tucker leads the team with a .680 average and 17 hits, and 16 runs scored. She is third with 13 runs batted in.
Young is batting .600 and is tied with Clark (.375) with 16 RBI, while Rivera (.400) is second with 14 RBI.
Last year Union County won the district title but lost in the region quarterfinals.
Their success in the circle this season (2.35 ERA) compared to last year (4.00 ERA) could be the difference in a lengthy postseason run as the Tigers seek their first state title since 2017.
Sophomore Lily Neal (1.31 ERA) has only allowed three earned runs in 16 innings pitched, while senior Megan Sullivan (3.10 ERA) leads the staff with 27 strikeouts in 29.1 innings of work.
“We’re pitching well and really that’s the difference in the season compared to seasons past,” Godwin explained.
Union County will host 5A Columbia (Lake City) at 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday.