By Cassandra Swartz
It only took the Gainesville Hurricanes four-and-a-half innings to send the Bradford Tornadoes packing Tuesday night.
The home team Hurricanes turned in a dominant performance, putting up 12 runs while allowing zero. After starting last season 7-0 just to have the year be cut off abruptly, the Canes were ready to pick up where they left off, which they did by beating the Tornadoes with a run rule finish.
Bradford threatened early, with freshman Rylie Blankenship reaching base on a single before stealing second and then advancing to third where she was ultimately left stranded when Gainesville starting pitcher Charlotte Sims got Masey Padgett to ground out to end the inning.
After a promising start, Blankenship proved to be the only runner for the Tornadoes to make it past second base all night long. Senior pitcher Maggie Olive got the nod in the circle for the Tornadoes, and the Canes came to the plate hungry, exploding for nine runs in the first inning alone.
Jayla Clark led off for Gainesville by driving a double to left field and stealing third. Senior Ayanna Woodard then slammed her own double to the same spot and scored Clark for the first run of the game.
Woodard was knocked in off a single by the next Hurricane up, Parris Wiggs. A walk followed by three straight singles allowed Wiggs and Aa’laysia Williams, who was pinch-running for Brianna Boggs, to cross the plate.
Cheyenne Boggs and Michaela Cromarty reached home next on a single by Karter Thorp. C. Boggs had reached base on a single and Cromarty was pinch running for Sims who had hit an RBI-single.
Clark made her second plate appearance of the inning and was thrown out at first but drove in Kyra Hornsby who had reached base after being hit by an errant Olive throw.
Woodard came to the plate again and hit a single that allowed Thorp to race home to make it 8-0, giving her two RBIs in the bottom of the first. The senior then stole two consecutive bases before scoring a second run on a Wiggs double, which was Wiggs’ second RBI of that half-inning.
After a nine-hit, eight-steal first inning that saw players with multiple plate appearances, the Hurricanes were in position to cruise to an easy win.
“It’s always nice to get out to a lead like that,” head coach Chris Chronister said.
Behind good defense by Gainesville, the top of the second and third were both 1-2-3 innings. Third baseman C. Boggs made a great catch to send the Canes back up to bat, and first baseman Addison Joseph was flawless to get several Tornadoes thrown out at the bag.
A couple of Canes reached base in the second, but it wasn’t until the third inning that they put another run on the board. Woodard slammed a triple into center, and then easily made it home on a deep sacrifice fly by Wiggs. Bradford shortstop Blankenship laced her second single of the game in the top of the fourth, but the Tornadoes couldn’t put anything together to bring her home.
In what would be the last offensive half of an inning for Gainesville, Sims hither second single of the game, which gave Kourtney Bryant her chance to appear as she took over for Sims as a baserunner.
Cromarty, who at this point had only been a pinch runner, got her first plate appearance of the season and demolished the ball for a two-run homer to make it 12-0. Three Tornadoes up, three Tornadoes down in the top of the fifth sealed the gameand marked the Hurricanes’ first win of the regular season.
There were many bright spots on Gainesville’s offense, but two of the biggest stars of the night were Woodard and Wiggs. Woodard was 3-3 with two RBIs and three runs and just a homerun shy of completing the cycle.
“It was good to come out here for our first game and put some runs on the board,” said Woodard. “We have a very good hitting team.”
Wiggs finished with three RBIs, a run and was feet away from a homerun on the night.
“I felt really good,” said Wiggs. “I was pretty proud of our performance as a team.”
Although offense was the story of the game, Sims had a good outing in the circle to shut out Bradford. The righty allowed two hits, zero walks, tossed two strikeouts, and impressed Coach Chronister.
“[She] pitched a great game in the circle,” said Chronister. “She threw strikes all night long.” Overall, Chronister was happy with all facets of his team’s outing, saying “I was very pleased with the way they played tonight.”
Bradford looks to right the ship at home on Friday against Williston. Gainesville travels to Keystone Heights on Thursday to try and pick up another win.