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The Chiefland softball team had some regrets coming out of its second meeting with Trenton last Friday.
The Lady Indians failed to score nine of their base runners in the final four frames, as they again struggled to put runs on the board against the Lady Tigers even when the bats were warming up.
But when it comes to the rivalry clash between the reigning three-time state champions and the newly-minted No. 1 team in the state, respective sides will take what they can get.
Chiefland got the win in Trenton, a 2-1 nailbiter on the occasion of the Tigers’ senior night, to throw the top of the district standings back in question and avenge its only district loss on the season.
The Lady Indians improved to 8-1 in District 1A-7, and sat 16-5 overall entering senior night on Tuesday against Bell, with a chance to force a coin flip for the top seed with Trenton. The Lady Tigers, meanwhile, finished 9-1 in district play and moved to 17-2 overall, with both losses coming by a one-run margin.
“They wanted to come in here tonight and win,” CMHS coach Wayne Weatherford said of his group. “They knew they could play better than when we played them the first time. Trenton’s still a great team, and I think they’re going to still be in the playoffs down the road. But I think our girls wanted it really bad tonight.”
Both head coaches figure their teams are likely to meet two more times – in the district tournament next week in Chiefland and in regionals.
“I don’t mind getting beat sometimes, if you can coach off of it,” TMHS coach Todd Bryant said. “I’m fine with it. I probably didn’t do as good a job as I could have.
“We’re okay. It’s the last one that matters.”
The insurance run(s) never arrived when CMHS threatened to break things open late, but the Lady Indians were able to rely on some of those elements that have served the program well through its unprecedented run of success, including a mostly stellar defensive play, solid pitching, opportunistic base running and just enough timely hitting.
It was Takiya London’s base running in the fourth that knotted the game at 1-1, after Trenton struck first blood on an RBI single by sophomore Bryn Thomas in the bottom of the third. London reached on a walk, stole second, then third, before scampering home on a Tiger error when Trenton tried to throw out Samantha Rolfe (walk) on a steal.
Sophomore Simone White, running for junior Taylor Simpson, scored what ultimately represented the winning run in the fifth when Emily Hallman, the team leader in RBIs, ran out an infield hit to get the go-ahead RBI with the bases loaded and no outs.
Hallman, who scorched a liner through the middle for a hit in the seventh, reached third base in the fifth and seventh innings without scoring.
“When you get bases loaded and you expect your top hitters to do something and they don’t produce because they’ve got so much pressure on them, it hurts; it hurts,” Weatherford said of his team’s struggles with runners in scoring position. “I think we’ve had other games this year where we’ve left them on base like that. We’ve got to get over that before we get into the playoffs.”
The bottom three hitters in the lineup generated five hits on the night for the Lady Indians, with Simpson and Macie Thomas accounting for two hits apiece.
Thomas, an up-and-coming sophomore slugger, recently reeled off six multi-hit nights during a seven-game span.
Chiefland ace Kensley Durrance, back in action after contending with the flu all week, got better as the game wore on after yielding four walks through the first three innings. The sophomore right-hander didn’t allow another walk for the remainder of the game as she fanned three and allowed five hits and the one earned run for the night.
"(Durrance) was on fire tonight,” Weatherford said. “She’s had a flu bug, but she was ready tonight. She was excited about tonight.
“I think it was an all-out team effort by all the girls. They did a great job; they didn’t let down.”
Durrance’s improved efficiency as well as limited miscues in the field by the Indians runs in the fourth and fifth innings despite reaching third base.
“The defense was tough,” Weatherford said. “Right now, it’s where it needs to be I think.”
Trenton eighth-grader Darian Ingram tallied nine strikeouts in the circle against four walks, three hit-batters and seven hits, while not allowing an earned run. Three of the four walks came in the fourth on consecutive at bats.
“Whenever she walked Takiya (London in the fourth), her demeanor changed that inning,” Bryant said. “She was throwing well up until then, and then she walked (Rolfe). I don’t think she’s walked two straight batters the entire season.”
“She kept us off balance,” Weatherford said of Ingram. “I think she walked a couple, that’s unusual for her, but we took advantage of that, which is what you’ve got to do.
“For her to be an eighth-grader, she’s going to be phenomenal. She’s only going to get better and better.”
Chiefland wraps up its regular season Thursday in Fort White and then returns home to play host for the district tournament.