BELLVILLE — The Bulloch Academy softball team knew what it had to do in order to secure a home state playoff game — sweep a doubleheader Tuesday at Pinewood, a team no player on this year’s BA squad had ever beaten. It took extra innings in game two to do it, but the Gators managed a sweep, winning game one 10-1 and taking the nitecap 6-4 in eight innings.
“I always knew they were capable of this, but they finally put it together, and I’m so happy for them,” said Bulloch Academy coach Kyle Chambers. “They played well in every aspect of the game, and I’m so proud of them.”
The Patriots took a 2-0 lead in game two, but unlike many games this year, the Gators responded. With two on Regan Ellis drilled a two run double to left center tying the game at 2-2.
The Gators scored two more runs in the fourth to take a 4-2 lead, but Pinewood would respond in the bottom of the sixth. With runners on the corners Ansley Howard sent a deep fly ball to right, that hit off the top of the fence but fell into fair territory. Thinking she had hit a home run Howard celebrated jogging around the bases, but the relay throw caught Howard between second and third, and Kacie Ricketts made a diving tag for the out to keep the score at 4-4.
That score would hold up until the top of the eighth. Liv Finley drew a walk, and two batters later Leah Williford delivered her second home run of the game. The two run shot to left gave the Gators a 6-4 lead.
Pinewood threatened in the bottom of the eighth, as they put two runners on, but Howard got Ella Anderson to pop up to second to end the inning and score the sweep.
“It seems like every game we have played here at Pinewood has come down to the wire, with us losing,” Chambers said. “It’s unbelievable to be on the other side of that, and these girls deserve it.”
The Gator bats — which had been silent the past four games — erupted in game one as they banged out 13 hits in taking the opening game by a score of 10-1.
Tied at 1-1 in the third, the Gators scrapped back to pull ahead 2-1. J.B. Marsh hit a fly ball to right center that fell, plating Williford with the go ahead run.
The Gators continued to hit in the fourth as back to back singles by Liv Finley and Ricketts, were followed by a towering three run home run to right field by Ellis, as the Gators extended their lead to 5-1.
“We’ve always said hitting is contagious,” Chambers said. “When we get a few doubles and then a homerun you can see the confidence rise in all the players.”
The hot hitting continued in the fifth as the Gators scored three more runs. Finley started things off with an RBI single down the line in left for a 6-1 Bulloch Academy lead. Williford then delivered with her first home run of the season, a blast to straight away centerfield for an 8-1 Gator lead.
“I can’t say enough about the way Leah swung the bat today,” Chambers said. “She one of those players you rely on, and she came through today.”
Lost in all the offense was a fine performance on the mound by Gator pitcher Baylee Howard who went the distance, striking out five and allowing only three hits.
Bulloch Academy added a couple more insurance runs in the seventh. Williford added to her RBI total with a two run double to the gap in left center scoring Finley and Allie Beth Pressley for the final score of 10-1.
The Gators still have another regular season game as they host Southeast Bulloch next week. The opening round of the state playoffs are scheduled to begin on Oct. 9.