Sophomore Lady Gator pitcher Severa Haney throws a practice ball before she has to don her field shield. [ David Adlerstein | The Times ]

Lady Gators edge Lady Seahawks 4-3

The long-simmering rivalry between the Wewahitchka and Franklin County softball teams moved off the back burner last week, as the two teams met for the second time this season, this time in Eastpoint.

Franklin County had a better record, 10-4, going into the contest, and had won the teams’ first outing this season, a 5-0 shutout in Wewa Feb. 27.

But the Lady Gators were riding high, with a four-game winning streak that had included lopsided wins: on March 12 16-4 over the Greenback (Tennessee) Lady Cherokees, on March 14 11-2 over the Anderson County (Tennessee) Lady Mavericks, on March 26 15-0 at Port St. Joe, and on March 27 at home 13-3 over the Florida High Lady Seminoles.

So the stage was set, the stands were thick with both Gator and Seahawks fans and the umps were ready to call ‘em as they saw ‘em.

Facing Lady Seahawk ace junior Sarah Ham, and her 2.37 earned run average, Justin Smith’s Lady Gators wasted no time getting on the scoreboard. After senior Ashley Thompson was hit by a pitch, and later stole second, sophomore Haley Green laid down a sacrifice bunt that advanced her to third. Junior Laiken Farrell drove home the run with a base hit.

Following a scoreless bottom of the first, Ham got herself into a pickle in the top of the second, as sophomore Emma Rustin and Jordan Ashby both had base hits. Ham managed to strike out junior Laila Suber, and Seahawk skipper Scott Collins opted to intentionally walk Ashley Thompson to load the bases. But Ham pitched her way out of the situation.

In the bottom of the second, the Lady Seahawks knotted the contest when junior Micahlyn O’Neal sent a pitch from sophomore Severa Haney over the centerfield fence. But Haney kept her cool and allowed just a single up the middle from senior Charity Larkin, and then struck out freshman Ashton Carey to end the inning.

In the top of the third, the Lady Gators put a pair of runs on the board, beginning with a solo home run by freshman Eden Rustin over the center field fence.

Senior Hope Thompson followed by beating out a grounder that O’Neal bobbled at first, and then advanced to second on a passed ball and stole third. She would later come home on a sacrifice by sophomore Emma Rustin, and the Lady Gators had a 3-1 lead.

Wewa added their final run in the top of the fifth, when a sacrifice fly to left field sent Eden Rustin home.

But trailing 4-1, the Lady Seahawks mounted a comeback in the bottom of the sixth, when sophomore Averie Johnson got on base when a Texas Leaguer dropped into short left. 

In her first-ever varsity home run, sophomore Alexis Webb then slammed the ball over the fence to the opposite field, and the Gator lead had narrowed to 4-3.

Ham faced three batters in the top of the seventh, striking out one and getting the other two out on infield grounders.

In the bottom of the seventh, Haney did what she had to do, getting Ham to hit a long foul ball that was caught, striking out O’Neal and then getting junior Raegan Dempsey to fly out to end the game.

“We’ve got to be more consistent at the plate,” said Collins, whose team left seven women on base and which was outhit 8-6 by the Lady Gators. “We’re not hitting the ball when we need to.”

Ham struck out eight and walked two, while giving up three earned runs on eight hits. “Sarah got better as the game went on and hit her normal groove in the third or fourth inning,” said Collins. 

The Seahawk coach credited a diving catch by Gator shortstop Eden Rustin, after the pitcher got her hand on it, late in the game for stifling a potential rally. “That could have been a game-winning two runs batted in,” he said. 

Three of the Lady Gator seniors said the win marked a turnaround from their early season loss to the Lady Seahawks.

“We attacked more than we did the first time and our defense was a hundred times better. We’ve been gelling more at practice and been working on communicating with each other and we’ve been doing that very effectively and our defense got us through,” ,” said Savana Mayhann.

“It’s definitely been the start of a great in everybody. In the beginning we were trying to work it out,” said Ashley Thompson.

“I feel like the big change was we had more drive in this game, more competitiveness with the team,” said Hope Thompson. “With the first Franklin game we were just going through the motions. We didn’t trust our defense and this game we let our defense back us up and we were more confident in our bats

“This is the beginning of what can be amazing,” she said. “We just got to keep working and just showing up and have confidence in our game.”

Meet the Editor

David Adlerstein, The Apalachicola Times’ digital editor, started with the news outlet in January 2002 as a reporter.

Prior to then, David Adlerstein began as a newspaperman with a small Boston weekly, after graduating magna cum laude from Brandeis University in Waltham, Massachusetts. He later edited the weekly Bellville Times, and as business reporter for the daily Marion Star, both not far from his hometown of Columbus, Ohio.

In 1995, he moved to South Florida, and worked as a business reporter and editor of Medical Business newspaper. In Jan. 2002, he began with the Apalachicola Times, first as reporter and later as editor, and in Oct. 2020, also began editing the Port St. Joe Star.

Wendy Weitzel The Star Digital Editor

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