On Thursday night, the Union County softball team once again showed its mettle.
In a see-saw affair early, the Tigers—who are ranked No. 1 in Class 1A by MaxPreps—scored five runs in the top of the seventh inning to beat No. 2 Williston on the road, 8-3, handing the Red Devils (5-1) their first loss of the season.
Union County (8-0) batted around in their final at-bat, sending 10 batters to the plate and breaking a 3-3 tie.
“Any time you beat a team that good you can’t fuss very much, but early on we made some base running mistakes, and we left a lot of baserunners on,” said Union County coach James Godwin, whose team left nine runners on base. “Towards the end of the game we stayed disciplined at the plate, we took what they gave us, and that was the difference in the game.”
The final score was not indicative of the way the Red Devils played at home.
“We played a really good game tonight,” said first-year Williston coach Carl Williams. “Too many runners left on, bad pitch selection, and we put too many people in scoring positions, things that we’ve got to work on. We’re not young, but we’re young playing together.”
The Tigers trailed 1-0 after two innings and 2-1 entering the fifth. But each time they rallied, much like the final inning.
“These guys just don’t give up,” Godwin said. “There’s no quit in them.”
Williston reliever Makenna Boyd hit Hailey Rivera with a pitch to start the final rally. Nyasia Williams walked, and Hayley Burke laid down a perfect bunt in front of home plate for a hit to load the bases.
Senior McKenzie Clemons, who was coming off a broken finger, singled up the middle to drive in two runs for a 5-3 lead.
Then, after the first out was recorded, No. 9 hitter Angela Tucker singled and lead-off hitter Tamia Young, who finished 4-for-4 and reached base five times, singled to center to drive in another run.
Tigers’ pitcher Megan Sullivan was in control early.
After giving up a solo home run to Williston pitcher Nevaeh Hayes in the bottom of the first, the senior retired the next eight batters she faced.
Sullivan, who retired the side in order in the bottom of the seventh inning, had a 2-hitter after five innings. She only walked one batter and struck out four.
Eighth-grader Baylee Cribbs had two of the Red Devils’ five hits and drove in two runs from the No. 6 spot in the lineup.
“She was our No. 2 batter but was struggling early in the season so we thought we would put her down and take some of the pressure off of her and just happened to be in a spot where the pressure came back, but she came through,” Williams said.
Meanwhile, Hayes worked out of a jam in the top of the first inning.
Young doubled to start the game and Leah Clark reached on a bunt single.
But Hayes ended up striking out the side to end the inning, and then gave her team the early momentum with her second home run of the season.
“She looks for moments like that,” Williams said. “She’s just got to build from that moment on. You can’t get that high and allow yourself to come back down. She’s young in the circle as well, but we’re going to work at it.”
The sophomore gave up her first run in the third inning on an RBI double down the left field line by Williams which tied the game at 1-1.
Union County will travel to Class 6A Buchholz (Gainesville) on Friday, while Williston will play at 6A Gainesville High. The first pitch for both games is at 7 p.m.
“We’ll take this defeat tonight, keep our heads up, and come back tomorrow and start all over again,” Williams said.
The GHS-Williston game will be audio streamed online at MainStreetDailyNews.com beginning at 6:45 p.m.