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Chiefland softball player Taylore Fuller is one of the select few athletes that will get to compete at the varsity level in college. A year from now she will be wearing Orange and Blue, playing for the University of Florida.
But in the finale of her high school school, she was as distraught as if it were her last game ever.
Fuller wasn’t alone in her tears. Even after the post-game talk with the coaching staff, few players, and some of their parents, could keep a dry face.
Union County got a hit in the bottom of the seventh and final inning for a dramatic come-from-behind walkoff win in the District 1A-7 softball semifinals on April 20. The top-seeded Tigers needed everything they had to fend off the fourth-seeded, and host, Indians. They had put together their best all-around performance of the season, only to fall in the most heartbreaking fashion the sport provides.
The win advanced Lake Butler to the district championship and an automatic spot in the regional tournament. The loss ended a traumatic and often difficult season for the Indians.
Chiefland started the season without many key graduated seniors, including starting pitcher Amber Richardson. That thrust untested sophomore Mychyala Franklin into the pitching circle. She improved dramatically through the season, notably in it’s final game, but missed several weeks because of injuries suffered in a car crash. On top of that, the Indians clean-up hitter quit early in the season. Their short stop battled injuries for most of it. That was in addition to youthful mistakes, lapses in intensity and a crop of devastating losses.
But the team improved. Franklin developed a change-up and cut down dramatically on her walks. The Union County coaching staff indirectly gave her an enormous compliment during the game. The coaches told their players to be more patient with a pitcher who had walked nearly 40 batters during the season. Through five innings against the best team in the district, she had walked none. But Union County’s batters proved too much. They kept on tacking on runs. Chiefland kept pace offensively. Defensively, several big stops, including a big double play, kept the Indians in control. But then the Tigers cut the lead to one in the bottom of the sixth and the Indians went three-up, three-down in the top of the seventh, it seemed inevitable that Union County would break through.
It put a sour end to the best two hours of a brutal season. It also ended the high school career of one of the sports’ best players.
Through her work ethic, dedication, off-season competition with elite travel ball teams far from home, Fuller earned a spot on the pantheon of Chiefland High School’s greatest athletes. And despite a Herculean effort in her final game of her senior season, it wasn’t enough to prolong it.
Her monsterous grand-slam home run put Chiefland up six runs early in the game. The blast was the final shot in one of the most illustrious home-run hitting careers in the history of softball. Fuller finishes her high school career as the most prolific home run hitter in the history of the Florida High School Athletic Association. She is on the top 10-list of home runs all-time nationwide.
Along with fellow senior Hailey Gerhard, Fuller will have her jersey retired. It was a small token by her coach to commemorate an amazing career- and to celebrate the beginning of a new one.