Written By: Cassandra Swartz
Despite Columbia taking an early lead on Thursday, Gainesville was determined to not let its senior night be spoiled. It took several innings for the Canes to take the lead, but from then on, they held securely to it, eventually winning the game against its division rival, 12-6.
The Tigers faced Kyra Hornsby in the circle, who played a complete game for the home team. They came out of the gates hungry, hitting six singles in the top of the first to jump out to a 4-0 lead.
All of their runs came with two outs. Addison Maxwell drove in two on her hit, while Sofia Arata and Alexis Blair each drove in one on their hits.
“We told them when they came in [after the top of the first] that there are seven innings to play,” said Canes head coach Chris Chronister. “We have a lot of time to get those runs back.”
Zoryana Hughes and the rest of the Columbia defense sent the first three Gainesville batters back to the dugout in order. Reece Chasteen dropped in her second single of the game in the top of the second, but the Tigers couldn’t bring her home.
The home half of the second was relatively quick, with only the leadoff hitter Briana Boggs reaching base. The top of the third was a 1-2-3 inning, with Karter Thorp racing into foul territory from second to snag an out.The Canes offense began to stir in the bottom of the third.
Thorp led off with a single and steal, and then scored their first run of the game off a Kourtney Bryant double. Jayla Clark laid down the perfect bunt to put runners on the corners before stealing toput both in scoring position.
Ayanna Woodard drew a walk to load the bases, and Parris Wiggs reached on a fielder’s choice that forced Bryant out at home for the first out of the inning. Bases still loaded, Clark sprinted home on a passed ball to make it 4-2.
Addison Joseph, who had stellar play at first base all night long, laced a single down the right field line that scored both Woodard and Wiggs to tie the game. Not to be counted out yet, the Tigers responded in the next half inning.
Blair and Emily Eadie had back-to-back singles and steals to put two runners in scoring position with no outs. Hughes delivered a double that scored Blair to retake the lead. Anissa Penniman added a single to load the bases.
Chasteen drew the walk to bring Eadie home and make it 6-4, still with no outs. A force out at home, strikeout and fly ball limited the damage to just two runs in the inning for the Canes.
Gainesville continued to heat up in the fourth, with Hornsby hitting a leadoff single followed by a Thorp double. Bryant added her second RBI of the night with a sac grounder that Aa’laysia Williams, the pinch runner for Hornsby, scored on to bring the Canes back within one.
Clark drilled a standup triple to tie the game back up at six a piece. She was brought home by Woodard on a sac grounder to give Gainesville its first lead of the night.
Facing its first deficit, Columbia had a quiet 1-2-3 top of the fifth to send the red-hot Canes back to the plate. Hornsby led off again with a single and was replaced on base by Williams, who advanced to second on a ball that got past the catcher. Thorp reached on a walk, and the runners advanced on a Clark groundout.
Williams raced home on a wild pitch to put the Canes up 8-6.
Woodard knocked in Thorp with a single to tack on another run, and then stole all the way to third. Wiggs drove her in with a single to give them 10 runs, added her own steal to get in scoring position, and scored on a Boggs double to make it 11-6.
Cailin Fouraker replaced Boggs on base, and the Tigers called a timeout to replace Hughes in the circle with Emma Edson. Joseph welcomed Edson to the game by drilling a double that scored Fouraker for the final run of the night.
With Gainesville now easily in command, the defense made it a quick 1-2-3 top of the sixth. Bryant and Woodard both hit singles in the seventh to threaten again, but Columbia kept them from scoring. A Tiger reached base in the seventh after being hit by a pitch, but the gameto a quiet end on a groundout.
Clark finished withtwo hits, including a deep triple, an RBI, a steal and two runs.
“I’m really proud of our team today,” said Clark. “We were able to come through offensively and defensively.”
Two of the seniors being celebrated that night, Woodard and Joseph, both had strong performances over the plate. Woodard had two singles, two RBIs, a walk, two steals and two runs.
Joseph added a single, double, three RBI's and a walk. Thorp notched a single, double, walk, steal and crossed the plate three times.
Coach Chronister was pleased with his team’s showing, saying “they played hard the whole game.”
The Canes improved to 11-3 and remain in first place in 5A-District 3. The Tigers fell to 3-9 and are in third place.