Hurricanes hold off Panthers with late run
Published: Tuesday, April 30, 2013 at 10:00 p.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, April 30, 2013 at 11:52 p.m.
LECANTO — The unprecedented playoff run for the Gainesville High School softball team continues.
The Hurricanes, behind freshman Katie Chronister's masterful pitching performance Tuesday night, achieved another first in the program's history — reaching the Class 6A, Region 2 finals.
Gainesville's 2-1 victory over Lecanto (17-13) was every bit of a nail-biter, something the Hurricanes haven't experienced this year.
“We haven't been in a ... really close, late-inning game in a really long time,” Gainesville coach Pete Mariano said.
The last close call for the Hurricanes was a 3-2 win over Ocala Vanguard on March 12. Their margin of victory for the season is nine runs and have lost games by an average of seven runs.
Tuesday night, however, was a pitcher's duel between Chronister and Lecanto's Danielle Yant.
The Hurricanes lefty followed up on her one-run three-hitter in last week's regional quarterfinal win against Citrus. Yant fooled many of the GHS hitters with her off-speed pitch.
Both teams scored in the second inning. The Hurricanes got a sacrifice fly from Amanda Donovan that brought home Chronister, who reached on a single, for a 1-0 GHS lead.
In the bottom of the inning Lecanto's Amber Hopkins led off the inning by reaching on an error and advanced to third base on consecutive passed balls. She came home on a suicide squeeze bunt to tie the game at 1.
No runs crossed the next four innings. Chronister mowed down Lecanto's batters one-two-three in the third, fifth and sixth innings. The Hurricanes (19-8) got three of their nine hits during that span, but couldn't muster a run.
“I thought we were going to score eventually,” said Hurricanes senior Stephanie Caudle. “We just needed to slow down because the pitcher was so slow. We hadn't faced a girl like that all season.”
In the top of the seventh with runners on first and second and one out, Caudle roped one of Yant's off-speed pitches for an RBI single to score Donovan for the eventual game-winning run. It was fortunate for GHS that Caudle was able to hit in the inning. Center fielder Brea Martin dropped Donovan's fly ball before first baseman Lilly Parrish bobbled Brittany Lewis' ground ball prior to Caudle's at-bat.
Chronister's one-run (unearned), three-hit, four-strikeout, no-walk performance made it all possible.
“She has pitched in big games all year,” Mariano said.
But never in a regional semifinal, the biggest stage thus far. Tuesday night the freshman pitcher looked like a seasoned veteran.
“When I came in I didn't think I would pitch in the district championship. I didn't think I'd be here,” said Chronister. “The support I have with this team is so grand. They make me feel like I can be on top of the world.”
The next stop on the Hurricanes' unprecedented journey is a Friday date with either Melbourne Palm Bay or Melbourne Eau Gallie at GHS.