OAKLEAF – An outfield collision in the bottom of the second inning wound up the turning point in a pitcher’s duel between two teams looking to take the district 2-8A softball title in a month or …
OAKLEAF – An outfield collision in the bottom of the second inning wound up the turning point in a pitcher’s duel between two teams looking to take the district 2-8A softball title in a month or two.
“You hate to see a game as close as this get decided by something like that,” said Oakleaf coach Christina Thompson, who eeked out the 1-0 win over Fleming Island in a hurler’s duel that produced 25 total strikeouts between rival pitcher’s Morgan Kendrick of Fleming Island and Madi Davis of Oakleaf. “Both pitchers were throwing unbelievably and this game could have gone on all night if we didn’t get that run.”
In an uncanny twist of irony, Fleming Island benefited from two field errors by Oakleaf; a dropped pop fly by second baseman Jasmine Lamug and a overthrow from Davis of a throw to second base on a grounder that left the Golden Eagles to man two bases very quickly.
Davis, with 12 strikeouts, squashed the early opportunity with a flyout and her first strikeout of the night.
Kendrick, with 13 strikeouts, displayed her raw power on the Knights’ first foray in the batter’s box with whiffs of Katie Kistler and Jaeda McFarland who had two homers in the Knights’ win over Ridgeview less than a week ago.
“I wasn’t throwing my change up in the early innings, but wanted to establish my fast game,” said Kendrick. “When I started getting them with the changeup, I had some control on what they would be looking out. They are such a strong batting lineup that I wanted to get them off their game.”
Davis returned Kendrick’s volley with three strikeouts in just nine throws with all three watching the third strike; two of three at changeup speed, go unchallenged.
“She’s (Kendrick) a really great pitcher; one of the best in Florida,” said Thompson. “We knew this would be a tough game and just one of many tough games for us. We will be battle tested by the season’s end. Going forward, there are things we can do a better job at.”
In the second inning, Katie Lambrecht drew a walk to put Oakleaf in scoring play with Kendrick getting a grounder to Lamug and Christian Lamug striking out seemingly leaving Lambrecht stuck at second base.
Davis came to bat and, with a homer on her batting resume, popped a floater over second base that head to a left-right field spot that Fleming Island outfielders Mackenzie Bullock and Kelsey Anderson both approaching the ball silently and with gloves ready while Lambrecht stayed footed to second base.
With the collision of Bullock and Anderson, Lambrecht took off and made the sprint to home plate as Bullock lay motionless; an apparent concussion, that took her out of the lineup. Bullock joined shortstop Jadyn Chesser who had a knee injury from a first inning collision with Oakleaf baserunner Baylee Goddard at second base on a successful steal attempt.
With two players out, Fleming Island coaches Jennifer and Buck Bucklew opted to play with just the remaining players; just two in the outfield.
“We also conceded them the open out on the missing player’s at bat instead of taking the out,” said Thompson, referring to the rule of automatic out on open batting lineup spot. “Like I said, the girls wanted to play them and not take the advantage of a free out.”
From there, Kendrick amped up her game after a walk to Jaeden Serrano was followed by a slow change up to Kistler to strike out Kistler.
“We talked in the dugout that we could get through this even with just eight players,” said Kendrick. “I kept throwing strong and they kept playing solid defense.”
With some excitement in the Fleming Island dugout to overcome the disadvantage, Lesseca Fonseca opened the third inning with a hard liner to right field a for a single that Ansley Hamilton put down a fielder’s choice to push Fonseca to third in a apparent retaliation to tie the game.
Davis locked down with strikeouts to Cheseny Miles, who had an in-the-park homer earlier in the week against St. Johns Country Day School, and Makenzi Dziekan.
Kendrick struck out Goddard and Lambrecht to follow Davis in the third inning.
Fleming Island again got baserunners with walks to Kendrick and Miles, but Davis struck out Fonseca to end the threat with Kendrick in the on-deck circle.
“I wanted to bat with bases loaded so bad,” said Kendrick. “
Both teams issues three out on three batters per inning until the bottom of the sixth where Goddard used a shortstop error and a passed ball to get to third base. Kendrick locked down with strikeouts to Jaycie Brookshire, Lambrecht and Lamug to leave Goddard stranded.
Neither team would get any closer to home plate.
Fleming Island (4-3, 1-1) wound up playing a Friday game against Baker County and lost 5-1 again with a diminished lineup.
Oakleaf, 8-1, 1-1, will host their Tournament of Champions featuring a host of Final Four teams from 2018, including Keystone Heights, Clay, West Nassau and Bishop Moore.