SOFTBALL: Gainesville tops Columbia to take back district title
You could almost write the script at this point.
Columbia and Gainesville always go down to the wire.
Thursday night’s District 3-7A championship was no different.
For the third straight year, the Lady Tigers and Hurricanes battled for the title, but unlike a year ago, the Lady Tigers couldn’t string together enough hits to take home back-to-back trophies. Class 7A No. 6 Columbia went 0 for 12 with runners in scoring position and managed just three hits off pitcher Alissa Humphrey, falling to Class 7A No. 7 Gainesville 3-1 on the road.
Humphrey struck out 11 in a complete-game performance to snap Columbia’s 12-game winning streak.
“She handled the mound but we didn’t take advantage,” Columbia coach Trudy Andrews said. “We had runners on. You can’t leave runners in scoring position and not take advantage of that.”
Columbia’s only run came in the fifth when Cris’Deona Beasley led off with a double before eventually scoring on Morgan Hoyle’s sac fly. Hoyle had her team’s other two hits, including a two-out double in the seventh.
The Lady Tigers (21-4) wasted a great opportunity in the sixth when Lauren Hutcherson and S.K. Lewis opened the frame with back-to-back walks only to watch Humphrey get out of the jam with a fielder’s choice and two strikeouts.
“We were just tight instead of playing our game at the plate,” Andrews said. “Instead of owning the plate we were trying to make things happen instead of just going back to our game plan.”
Briana Boggs did the damage at the plate for the Hurricanes (20-5), going 2 for 3 with an RBI and run scored. Her RBI double in the second inning nearly left park, scoring Hallie Karas for a 1-0 lead.
The Hurricanes tripled their advantage in the fourth as Oliva Hanson and Boggs both singled before Hanson scored on Ayanna Woodard’s bunt single.
Boggs then moved to third on a sac fly to set up a critical error by Columbia first baseman Dara Gaylard, who bobbled a ground ball for the would-be third out. Gayalrd managed to gather the ball but the junior lost it out of her glove trying to tag Reghan Young, allowing Boggs to score for a 3-0 advantage.
“They were able to string hits together and expose our weaknesses and we had some bobbles they took advantage of and that’s the name of the game when you’ve got two awesome teams like Columbia and Gainesville going against each other,” Andrews said. “You can’t give up plays like that or leave runners on like we did.” Gainesville will host Nease for next Wednesday’s Region 1-7A quarterfinal while Columbia will travel to Class 7A No. 5 Bartram Trail. Columbia and Bartram Trail met in the regional quarterfinals in 2016, with the Lady Tigers rallying from six runs down to come away with an 11-10 road victory. “If we’re going to lose I’d rather lose right now and take this loss today and sue it to motivate us to motivate us in the postseason because it really starts right now,” Andrews said.