By Cassandra Swartz
Fresh off delivering its own mercy rule in the semifinal, Hawthorne had the roles reversed Friday night in the Class 1A-District 8 championship game against Williston.
As errors mounted for the home Hornets, the Red Devils kept growing their lead until the run rule went into effect after three innings. “Emotions can’t describe what I’m feeling right now,” said Red Devils head coach Lavar Williams after the title win.
“We came out tonight with a mission, and we held to that mission.” Williston’s powerhouse offense was backed by Raegan Geiger in the circle who tossed a no-hitter, striking out six, and was just one walk away from a perfect game. “I think I did an awesome job tonight on the mound,” said Geiger after her career night.
“I’m very proud of [my team]...we have come a long way.” Facing pitcher Madisyn Gillins, the Red Devils wasted no time getting on the board, putting up 11 runs in a near half-hour long top of the first. Olivia Davis led off with a walk before Maci Vonderstrasse dropped a hit into right field that turned into an inside-the-park home run off of errors."
Of the next nine runs in that half inning, five stemmed from errors and only three from hits. Two of those hits were by Geiger who scored Nevaeh Hayes with a single during her first at-bat and drove Hayes home again with a double in her second appearance.
Karley Jerrels added an RBI double during her second at-bat of the inning. Once the Hornets were able to bring themselves to the plate in the bottom of the first, Geiger didn’t leave them any room to attempt a comeback. She sent them back to the dugout in order, notching two strikeouts in the process.
Errors continued to pile up for Hawthorne on defense, with the second inning lead-off hitter Miyuanna Days reaching on one and then quickly scoring on another. Vonderstrasse and Geiger each knocked in runners to make it 14-0.
With two outs and the bases loaded, Austine Howard sent a grounder in the direction of a Hornet infielder who went to scoop up the ball but let it roll through her legs into the outfield. The right fielder was positioned to back her up, but the ball also rolled under her glove and escaped deeper into the now unmanned outfield.
Howard slowed rounding third, but the throw to the plate sailed high and wide, allowing her to score run number 18 for her team. Gillins caught a pop-up that ended the onslaught and sent the Hornets to the plate for the second time.
However, Geiger remained dominant, tossing two more strikeouts and inducing a line-out to first base. A combination of errors and hits led to five more runs for the Red Devils in the third. Days, Vonderstrasse, Geiger and Jerrels each chipped in a single in the inning while Howard slammed a triple.
Down 23-0, the Hornets had three outs left to make a dent and avoid a mercy rule. After a groundout to open the bottom of the third, Erica Junior drew a full-count walk from Geiger to become her team’s sole base runner of the night.
Having lost the perfect game, Geiger was still looking for the no-hitter. She promptly struck out the next two batters to seal that achievement, secure the district title for Williston and earn herself the spot in the middle of a mob of cheering teammates.
Along with the championship, the Red Devils won home field advantage for theirnext bout. They have a tall task in front of themas they are set to face the 19-2 Dixie County Bears.
“We’re going to celebrate for a couple hours, and then we’re going to get ready for next week,”said Williams. “Our mentality going into next week is that we’re going to compete.”
Star of the game, Geiger, also had some thoughts on what it will take to keep the postseason run going.
“I think it’s going to take what we brought to this game tonight,” she said. “We hadgood defense, good offense and a great attitude."