Columbia catcher Kamdyn Kvistad walks back to home plate after a mound meeting with pitcher Ivorie Maltby in the District 3-7A final against Gainesville on April 14 (photo by JORDAN KROEGER/Lake City Reporter).

Fourth Hurricane of the season

Columbia faces Gainesville in regional semifinals for fourth time in 2016.

 

Never down and never out.

The Lady Tigers proved that in Wednesday’s regional quarterfinal win over Bartram Trail, rallying from down 6-0 and then 9-6 to pull out an 11-10 victory.

They’ve now won 11 of their last 15 games and momentum is on their side.

But three of those four losses have come at the hands of the Lady Hurricanes, who once again stand in Columbia’s way. The teams meet for a fourth time tonight in Gainesville in the Class 7A regional semifinals.

The Lady Hurricanes won all three meetings this season between the district rivals by a combined score of 16-1. The brunt of it came in the District 3-7A final, when Columbia (14-11) unraveled in the third and fourth innings, surrendering seven runs to Gainesville (24-2).

Errors also proved costly that night, leading to five unearned runs in a 9-1 loss.

“I think we just need to clean up a little bit of our defensive errors,” Columbia second baseman S.K. Lewis said. “We started off really strong in the first inning with our bats and then we thought we just didn’t have it anymore. As long as we stay confident at the plate, I think we’ll be fine because we’ve been doing fine on defense. We’ve just got to clean up a few errors that we’ve had and we’ll be fine.”

It looked as if Columbia would jump on Gainesville pitcher Katie Chronister early that night, loading the bases with only one out in the first inning. But the Lady Tigers failed to capitalize against Chronister, who posted her ninth shutout of the season in Gainesville’s playoff win over Creekside last week.

The young Lady Tigers will try and crack the Florida signee one last time to return to the regional finals for the first time since 2014.

“We got to come out like we did before, put the bat on the ball and keep stringing those hits together,” Columbia head coach Trudy Andrews said. “We had ten doubles the other night (against Bartram Trail) so we’re really hitting the ball well and now we just got to keep stringing them on and putting the pressure on her.”

Facing an ace as strong as Chronister has been tough on a roster that features five freshmen. After all, Chronister’s ERA has now dipped to 0.58.

She’s nearly unhittable, but the Lady Tigers continue to believe in themselves.

They know she’s beatable.

“This season has been a lot easier and a lot harder than I expected because the first time I ever played GHS I was like: ‘Oh yeah, I have Katie’ and I was like ‘oh, it’s going to be a lot tougher,’” Columbia freshman first baseman Dara Gaylard said. “But it’s definitely taught me a lot about high school and how it’s going to work. Now I think we can definitely win state.”

The players say they’ve learned a lot from the first three meetings against Gainesville, but even more from the comeback against Bartram Trail. That win was the ultimate confidence boost for a group ready to overcome their kryptonite.

“I think it showed as long as we keep each other pumped up and don’t get down on ourselves that we can do anything and I think that’ll be huge against GHS too,” Lewis said.

No task is too tall in the minds of the Lady Tigers.

Second Slider: 

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