Bradford, P.K. Yonge advance to Thursday's final

P.K. Yonge's Kassidy Kennard connects on a pitch from Fort White during Tuesday's District 5-4A semifinals in Alachua.

Matt Stamey/Staff photographer
Published: Tuesday, April 15, 2014 at 11:20 p.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, April 15, 2014 at 11:20 p.m.

ALACHUA — In a softball league as talented as District 5-4A, with P.K. Yonge, Bradford and Santa Fe all being ranked during the course of the season, the realization was that one of the three wouldn't move on beyond the district tournament.

On Tuesday night, that one team was the host, the ninth-ranked Raiders.

Lainie Rodgers hit three doubles, Annie Luke and Jacki Atkinson each had a pair of singles and senior Ashton Adkins tossed a three-hitter and delivered a huge hit in a three-run fifth inning as the Tornadoes eliminated Santa Fe, 5-1, at Loretta Shane Softball Field.

With the victory, Bradford (17-7) will face 4A No. 1 P.K. Yonge (20-2) in Thursday's district championship at 7 p.m. at Santa Fe. The Blue Wave routed Fort White 14-0 in five innings in Tuesday's first district semifinal, with Kalen McGill getting two hits, including a two-run homer, and improving to 19-1 on the mound with no walks and five strikeouts.

Bradford, which a year ago reached the state 4A tournament for the first time in school history, dropped out of the Miracle Sports state softball poll following an 0-4 showing at the Kissimmee Klassic two weeks ago, which gave them seven losses on the season.

“They took it a little hard, they expected to do better there, which is how I would like them to react,” Tornadoes coach Daniel Davis said. “They also knew that playing those type of teams were going to make us better. I think playing those type of teams gets you ready for districts because you are battle tested.”

Leading 2-0 after a costly infield error by the Raiders, Bradford broke the game open in the fifth, scoring three runs with two outs. Besides Rodgers, who hit her second of three doubles in that frame, Adkins drove her home with a double to right with two outs. Jordan Davis then followed with another Tornado double, and Luke and Atkinson had back-to-back singles, all adding up to a 5-1 Bradford lead.

“To score those runs with two outs was kind of where we have been struggling at this year,” Daniels said. “We were good at it last year, scoring with two outs, but haven't done such a good job this year. So to score three runs in a tight game with two outs was huge for us.”

The Tornadoes had nine hits off Santa Fe junior starter Ashtin Strickland, five of those in the fifth. Strickland, who had one of the Raiders' three hits, had nine strikeouts.

Santa Fe, which handed Columbia its only loss on the season, closed its season at 19-7.

“We made some mental errors (in the fifth), in some areas we are still young,” Raiders coach Gene Findley said. “Unfortunately we had a mishap last night where we had to rearrange our field a little bit because our catcher was out with a concussion. It affected us some.

“All our players gave everything in the gut out there, no doubt. This district is really strong in pitching. You don't see that in a lot of districts.”

P.K. Yonge had little problem with Fort White, scoring nine runs in the second to build a 10-0 lead early. McGill, who injured her ankle at the Kissimmee Klassic, pitched just her second game since, giving up just two hits, and delivering her two-run homer in the third.

“I always say the semifinal of a district tournament is always the most important game of the year,” said Blue Wave coach Paul Silverman, who was greeted with cupcakes from his team after the win in celebration of his birthday, which is today. “It is what gets you into the state playoffs, and we treat it that way. Kalen's ankle (left), she is definitely favoring it. We have to manage it. When the adrenaline kicks in, she is ready to go.

“This is very much a game-to-game, day-to-day, mature type of team. I think everybody has their job to do and they do it. She (McGill) has pitched two shutouts with her bad ankle.”

The Blue Wave had 13 hits in just four innings at the plate. Beside McGill, Sara Hendrix and Nikkia Robinson both had a pair of hits, with Hendrix opening P.K. Yonge's hitting with a lead-off double.

Bradford and P.K. Yonge have played two one-run games during the season, with the Blue Wave winning both. In Gainesville, P.K. Yonge, down 2-0, scored three runs in the seventh to win.

“They are a great team, we have lost two close ballgames to them,” Davis said of P.K. Yonge. “I think it will be a tight game. It would be nice to win the district championship, but we know it will be a great challenge.”

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