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After three consecutive state championships, Chiefland softball coach Wayne Weatherford knows his team has a bullseye on its back.
In a highly-anticipated matchup last Friday that only prefaced more meaningful games likely to come between the local rivals, Trenton found its target, finally getting over the hump against the Lady Indians with stellar defensive play and some small-ball offense.
The Lady Tigers rallied for three runs apiece in the fifth and seventh innings to beat CMHS 6-1 in Chiefland, improving their mark to 8-0 on the season and 4-0 in District 1A-7.
The Lady Indians dropped to 7-2 overall and moved to 5-1 in 1A-7 on their first district loss.
At the plate, the Indians enjoyed steady contact all night but were thwarted by bad luck aim and potential rally-killing defensive plays by Trenton, as Chiefland flew out eight times to the outfield alone.
Despite striking out just three times against Trenton ace Darian Ingram, Chiefland mustered one hit in the game.
The TMHS defense played error-free, led by a couple of key catches in right field by eighth-grader Adrian Ingram, whose signature play was a successful diving stab in the fifth on a blast by Erika Gilliam in the gap.
“(Ingram) had two really good catches, you can’t take that away from her,” CMHS coach Wayne Weatherford said. “Their defense was real tight. You can’t play baseball or softball and expect to have every one of your fly balls caught.”
The Tiger offense, meanwhile, bided its time against Chiefland ace Kensley Durrance, who escaped early trouble in the opening inning before retiring 10 of 11 straight batters.
The right-handed sophomore finished with eight strikeouts and four hits and three walks allowed.
“Durrance did a good job mixing some pitches,” TMHS coach Todd Bryant said. “We swung at some riseballs early, but then as she started throwing a lot of pitches we started seeing the riseball better and quit swinging at it and started hitting some fastballs.
“We’re fast, so that’s our game – we’re going to put the ball down, force them to make plays. We’re not going to strike out a lot most of the time, but tonight (Durrance) did a good job.”
After boarding runners off a couple of bunts and another infield hit to begin the fifth, eighth-grader Lillian Wilkerson drove in a pair of runs on a two-out double to right-center field. Sophomore Bryn Thomas followed her up with an RBI single to pad the lead to 3-0.
Defensive miscues helped Trenton tack on three more in the seventh off just one hit and a walk.
The Lady Indians scored its run in the bottom-half of the seventh when senior Takiya London, who reached on a double to left field for her team’s only hit, scored on a Erika Gilliam grounder.
Chiefland’s defense was the most disappointing aspect of the loss for Weatherford, as it committed six errors.
“I thought we had too many errors where we shouldn’t have,” Weatherford said. “You have a shortstop and third baseman run into each other, that’s not something we normally do. You can’t do that in big games.”
With both teams expecting to face one another three more times this year – including in the district and regional tournaments – Weatherford said it’s left to his team to regroup and give a better effort down the road.
“All we can do is apply ourselves and hopefully give them the best game that we’ve got,” the skipper said. “The rest just has to fall in place.
“I’m not ashamed of it. We’ll fight back and win some more games.”
Chiefland is next at home Tuesday March 21 against Union County (Lake Butler), which handed Chiefland its only other loss on the season. The Lady Indians next meet the Tigers in Trenton on April 14.