Liberty County junior catcher Elizabeth “Sister” Arnold scored from second base on a sacrifice bunt by sophomore shortstop Gabrie Flowers in the first inning, and the Bulldogs held on to stun the Wewahitchka Gators 1-0 Tuesday night and claim the Region 2 title and move on to the state semi-finals next week.
The last time the Bulldogs and Gators met, May 5, it took 10 innings before Wewa scored and won 1-0 in the district title game. Twelve days later, it only took two batters before Liberty County got on the scoreboard.
This time, Arnold led off by taking first base after being hit by a Haley Guffey pitch and swiping second
base on the first pitch to Flowers, whose sacrifice sent Arnold flying around third toward home for the
lone run of the game.
The Gators threatened to tie the game in their half of the first inning when senior catcher Morgan Mayhann doubled off the right fielder’s glove to send courtesy runner seventh-grader Eden Rustin to third. Sophomore third baseman Ashley Thompson worked her way on with a walk to load the bases, but a groundout ended the threat.
An unusual double play ended the Liberty third inning to erase another scoring opportunity.
With one out, junior center fielder Ella Davis bunted her way on and promptly stole second base. With Arnold due up, Gator coach Justin Smith sent her to first base with an intentional walk.
Flowers flied out to senior center fielder Kylie Parker, who threw to first in an attempt to catch Arnold off the bag, but freshman first baseman Laiken Ferrell gathered the ball and threw to Thompson who applied a successful tag on a sliding Davis for the third out of the inning.
The Gators avoided another scoring threat in the sixth. Davis led off the inning with her second bunt hit, and immediately stole second and then third. With one out, Flowers hit a grounder to Thompson, who faked a throw to first base but raced back to tag Davis.
The base umpire called the runner safe, however, which generated boos from the home crowd and cheers from the visitors’ side. After Smith asked the umpires to meet and discuss the play, the call was reversed and the runner was ruled out. The next batter flew to center for the third out.
Thompson led off the seventh inning with a hard grounder that the first baseman couldn’t handle, and junior right fielder Madison Forehand followed with a hit up the middle that put runners at first and second with no outs, giving the overflow home crowd something to cheer about.
This prompted Liberty County coach Jennifer Sewell to bring in Kallan Mercer to relieve Lauren Grantham, even though Grantham had allowed only two hits.
After an infield fly out, Mercer hit sophomore Savana Mayhann to load the bases. The next batter, second baseman Hope Thompson, attempted a squeeze bunt play that would allow twin sister Ashley to score from third, but the home plate umpire ruled that the throw from the third baseman to the catcher beat the sliding Thompson on a play that could have gone either way.
Senior shortstop Katie Shealy, like the Mighty Casey, came to bat as Wewa’s last hope. But instead of striking out like Casey did, Shealy drilled a pitch on a line directly at Davis in center field for the third and final out, causing the Bulldogs to celebrate and the Gators to walk off in stunned silence.
Liberty County, now 17-13, will face last year’s 1A state champion Jay next Tuesday, May 24, in Clermont. Jay defeated Paxton 3-0 to move on.
Wewa ended their season with a 20-6 record, and will lose four seniors from the squad – Morgan Mayhann, Kylie Parker, Katie Shealy, and All-State pitcher Haley Guffey.