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Lady Gators claim 5-3 win over Port St. Joe

The Wewahitchka Lady Gators broke into the win column on Friday, March 3, with a dramatic 5-3 defeat of Port St. Joe in front of an enthusiastic home crowd. 

Amid a swirling 20-mph wind that often kicked up infield dust, freshman hurler Severa Haney pitched a complete game for the Gators one week after sustaining an injury to her pitching hand against Liberty County. 

Savana Mayhann, playing her second game since recovering from ankle surgery, led off the Gator first with a single and advanced to third following Ashley Thompson’s bunt and a Shark throwing error. 

With one out, St. Joe pitcher Brooklyn Bishop struck out the next batter, but the ball caromed off of catcher Lauren Brant’s glove, allowing Mayhann to score. However, Brant was able to recover the ball in time to tag Thompson and prevent any further Gator runs. 

In the top of the second, Shark shortstop Addy Silcox led off with a single and ended up at third base after two successful steals. Haney ended the threat with a strikeout, stranding Silcox at third, the first of 10 Shark runners left on base during the game. 

Wewa added three more runs in their half of the third inning without hitting the ball past the pitcher. 

After ending another St. Joe threat with a diving catch to her left in the third inning, Emma Rustin led off with a walk and promptly stole second before advancing to third on Keersten Easter’s sacrifice bunt. 

With one out, Mayhann walked, and ended up standing on third base after a passed ball allowed Rustin to cross the plate. 

Ashley Thompson executed a perfect suicide squeeze to bring in Mayhann with the second run of the inning before scoring herself after stealing third base and coming home on another passed ball. 

The Tiger Sharks closed the gap to 4-2 with two scores of their own in the top of the fourth. Leading off, Silcox ended up at third after a triple to left. 

Chelsea Bishop dropped a soft popup in front of Haney and ended up at second, where Anniston Gainer replaced her as a pinch runner. 

Maelynn Butler’s single to left drove in both runners, and Brant made it interesting with a long blast over the left field fence that just crept foul at the last moment. 

Wewa got one of those runs back in their next at bat, their final run of the game, when Eden Rustin reached on an error and came all the way home when the throw on her steal attempt of second base ended up rolling deep into center field. 

Emma Rustin helped prevent another Shark score in the fifth to preserve the 5-2 lead.

With one out and Creekmore at third, Silcox lifted a fly ball into medium left field. Creekmore tagged on the catch and raced home, but Rustin’s throw to Hope Thompson was perfect. Thompson applied the tag just before Creekmore slid home to complete the double play and preserve the Gator lead. 

St. Joe scored its final run of the evening in the sixth inning, when, with two outs, Haley Green walked and stole second. Butler’s single up the middle drove her home to make the score 5-3. 

Coach Lissa Walker’s young squad offered another threat in their final at bat. Creekmore once more led off with a single and stole second with one out. 

After Elli Newman singled to put runners at the corners, Wewa coach Justin Smith opted to intentionally walk Silcox to load the bases. 

“We had talked about that earlier,” said Smith. “If there’s an open base, we’re putting her on, (because) she could have hit a double and tied the game.” Silcox ended the game with two hits, a run, and two stolen bases. 

A line drive to Haney and a ground out ended the game, giving Wewa its first win of the season at 1-3 and dropping Port St. Joe to 2-1. 

In earning the win, Haney scattered nine hits, walked four, and fanned seven. 

She was aided by a revamped defensive lineup, the biggest change being putting Hope Thompson behind the plate and moving Eden Rustin to shortstop. 

“We’re not at one hundred percent,” said Smith, “(but) I think the girls are buying into what we’re doing at practice to make them better.” 

One of the Gators who is “buying into” what the coaches are doing is sophomore first baseman Laiken Ferrell. 

On the win, Ferrell said that “we just tried our best. We’ve been working hard after those losses.” 

At the start of the season, “it was rough,” she added. “But we worked together, and I was trying to step up and encourage them because that’s just what you do for your teammates.” 

At the other dugout, Walker admitted that her players came out a little tight, and said “We created a bigger atmosphere than what it was. We let factors play with our heads, and then we created a hole.” 

Although the absence of shortstop Kali Austerman is telling, Walker said that “physically, (the players) are ready,” but mentally, we still have work to do. We’re going to get there. It’s early in the season, and (the season) is a marathon.”

In addition to Silcox getting two hits, she scored a run and stole two bases. Creekmore added three hits and a stolen base, and Butler had two hits, including a double, plus drove in two runs. 

St. Joe pitcher Bishop, herself only a freshman, allowed only three hits and two earned runs while fanning seven Gators. 

Wewa will try to keep the streak going when Marianna visits this Friday, March 10.