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It’s rare to find an opposing team’s colors on display before a game. Chiefland softball players joked it was to welcome visiting Bronson before the team’s senior night game on April 12. Despite the coincidence, it was worth the confusion.
Orange and blue balloons were tied to the fence along left field during the game. They celebrated two of the players in program history most worthy of celebrating.
Both Hailey Gerhard and Taylore Fuller will attend the University of Florida for the upcoming school year. It’s the culmination of two incredible academic, and athletic, high school careers.
That, in itself, is not what makes the softball team’s pair of seniors so special. Even before the easy, lopsided win, this game wasn’t about wins or losses. It was a way to recognize two of the best in high school athletics.
Fuller added to her school-record extra-base hit total. Gerhard, moved up to third in the lineup for the night, got her final regular-season base hit and RBI. It was fitting too that she made a diving catch in center field and an assist from center field to set up a double play for the game’s final out.
It’s hard to overstate the significance of this class of 2012 to the Chiefland softball team. The two-person senior class includes one of the school’s outgoing leaders, achievers and salutatorian.
It also features the best player in Chiefland softball history, a top-academic student as well.
On a team that started freshman at the varsity level, their leadership may have been the most important asset to the team.
“It’s not just their abilities (in softball), it’s their leadership and ability to speak their minds, to motivate and to help the younger players adjust to the structure of a varsity sport,” said head coach Ginger Fuller.
Coach Fuller said Gerhard had to be asked to leave practice once during her senior season. It was a senior skip day with the nearest game a week away. Fuller said they had to force her to take her day off.
Taylore Fuller had an impressive work ethic of her own. Even back in sophomore year, Chiefland’s catcher was heavily recruited before signing with UF.
“They are the ultimate team players,” said assistant coach Randy Fuller. “They do whatever is asked of them and don’t question what’s asked.”
Like the colors of their future school, Fuller and Gerhard were complements to each other. Fuller was the no-nonsense, tell-it-like-it-is type on the field. Gerhard was the encourager. Gerhard was the warm smile and high-profile leader at the school. Fuller liked to let her impressive body of work talk for her. Gerhard ran the outfield. Fuller ran the infield. Their different strengths and styles strengthened off each other. So did their friendship.
Gerhard will finish her pre-secondary education having never played on a softball team without Fuller. The life-long friends are already joking and planning for join rides on Fuller’s scooter once they get to Gainesville.
“These two will be successful where they go,” Fuller said. “Whatever community they’re in is lucky to have them.”
“We’re going to be sad to be done but we have lot’s of good stuff coming our way,” Gerhard said.