By Cassandra Swartz:
Monday night was the clash of two of the hottest softball offenses around, and Gainesville came out on top against Forest--with both its offense and defense excelling.
Each team came into the game with an impressive 4-1 record, and between the two of them, they had scored 113 runs through the first five games of the season.
The Canes’ bats stayed hot and their nearly perfect fielding kept the Wildcats quieter than they had been all season. The only two runs for the visitors came early as Forest came out of the gate, strong.
The first two batters for the Wildcats, Ciara Kelley and Izzy Lewis, hit a bunt and a double off of Canes pitcher Kyra Hornsby. Kelley crossed the plate on a Jillian Bellomo single for the first run of the game, and Lewis raced home on a sacrifice grounder from Leah Meyer.
After falling into a two-run hole right away, the Canes responded with emphasis. A shaky start by Wildcats pitcher Emily Bellomo that included a walk and a hit batter put two on with no outs for junior Parris Wiggs. Wiggs delivered a no-doubter toward right-centerfield to grab the lead.
Still with no outs, Addison Joseph drew a walk, then Briana Boggs launched a triple to bring her home and make it 4-2. Aa’laysia Williams replaced Boggs on baseand raced home on a sacrifice fly by Cheyenne Boggs to add the final run of the inning.
The Wildcats threatened in the second, with a walk and back-to-back singles loading the bases with only one out that came off a great play by Joseph at first base. Wiggs caught a pop-up into short left field for the second out. Another pop-up followed that one, but in a rare lapse for the Canes, it was muffed.
A speedy recovery and on-target throw forced the runner out at home and Gainesville escaped unscathed.Two more walks in the bottom of the second gave the Canes opportunity to extend their lead. Joseph capitalized by driving a double down the left field line to score Jayla Clark and Ayanna Woodard.
Now down 7-2, the Wildcats changed pitchers, sending Melody Poling into the circle.B. Boggs got her second hit and RBI of the game by sending her own double into the outfield and scoring Joseph in the process to make it 8-2.
“Our bats were rolling in the beginning,” said Gainesville coach Chris Chronister. “We scored a bunch of runs in the first two innings and that carried us through the game.”
Forest knocked on the door in the third inning, this time loading the bases with no outs, but flawless defense by Gainesville stopped any runs from scoring. Second baseman Karter Thorps nagged a hard-hit liner and tossed it to Woodard, who had run to cover second, for a heads-up play to get the runner out. Hornsby ended the threat with a strikeout to send the Canes back to the plate.
Thorp reached base in the home half of the inning and added a steal but wasn’t able to make it home. The Wildcats hit a single of their own in the top of the fourth, but two fly-outs and a line-out made it a quiet half-inning.
The Canes began the bottom of the fourth with consecutive singles by Woodard and Wiggs. With runners on the corners, Gainesville executed a textbook double steal with Woodard sprinting home while Forest tried to pick off Wiggs at second.
Joseph got her second hit of the game to advance Wiggs to third, then C. Boggs singled her home to make it 10-2. The final two-and-a-half innings were scoreless, with the Canes adding three hits and the Wildcats only one.
The game ended on a relay from the centerfielder to Thorp at second to C. Boggs at third to tag the Forest batter who was trying to squeeze out a triple. Wiggs finished the night with 3 RBI’s off of her first inning homer, a single and two runs
“I’m really proud of our performance tonight,” said Wiggs. “We all hit really well.”
Another top performer was Joseph, who is in her first season with the Canes. She went 3-3 with a double, two singles, a walk, a steal, two RBIs and two runs.
“I’m really proud of our defense and offense,” said Joseph. “I’m very happy about this game.” The Boggs sisters each added two RBIs of their own. Briana hit a triple and a double, while Cheyenne had two singles.]
“It was a good win,” said Chronister. “We rest our hats on good pitching and good defense.”