Rattlers jump on Wildcats early in 9-4 win

Forest’s Izzy Lewis (17) scores as Belleview’s catcher Maicey Wilsher (12) can’t handle the throw to the plate as Belleview’s pitcher Lauren Reimsnyder (11) and first baseman Brooke Butcher (3) backup the play at Belleview High School on Wednesday. [Bruce Ackerman/Ocala Gazette]
The Rattlers were nearly two months removed from their first meeting with the Forest Wildcats when they welcomed them to Belleview on Wednesday night.

In the teams’ first meeting on Feb. 17, Forest thumped Belleview 9-1.

“After that Forest loss, it woke us up a bit,” Belleview head coach Gary Greer said. “It kinda slapped us around.”

The Rattlers were wide awake for the rematch.

After giving up two runs to the Wildcats in the top half of the first inning, Belleview jumped on Forest pitcher Leah Meyer early to post five runs on their way to a 9-4 win.

The sophomore gave up three hits and four walks in her opening inning of action, and the Rattlers capitalized as they cycled through all nine of their batters.

Meyer, who Greer regards as one of the best in the county, wasn’t expected to start on Wednesday night. But with little time to adjust, Greer told his team to do what they do.

“Our approach at the plate looked aggressive,” Greer said. “They didn’t look scared of anything.”

Even Belleview freshman outfielder Jordan McLaughlin didn’t flinch.

In her opening at-bat with the bases loaded, McLaughlin launched a two-out, base-clearing triple to the centerfield fence.

Belleview senior pitcher Lauren Reimsnyder didn’t make it easy for Forest.

Reimsnyder, who signed to play college softball with Bethel University in January, hurled back-to-back strikeouts while only facing four batters in the top of the second inning. Those strikeouts would be the only ones she’d dish all night.

“Usually, Lauren is a strikeout pitcher,” Greer said. “Forest has a very deep lineup of hitters… good quality hitters. So, our goal was to keep them off balance, and I thought Lauren did a really good job of doing that.”

The Wildcats would tack on only two more runs against Reimsnyder and the Rattlers.

Forest sophomore Izzy Lewis went 3-4 with two singles and a double, while Meyer added an RBI single and a double.

The Wildcats’ junior relief, Melody Poling, took over pitching duties in the second inning and hurled six strikeouts through 5.2 frames.

The Rattlers added four more runs onto their five-run opening at-bat with the help of senior Jaela Haynes’ 3-4 performance from the plate.

Haynes, who will play for Stetson University next year, had a single, double and triple.

Belleview senior Kylah Gardner (2-4, double, single) and junior Haili Mitchell (2-4, two RBIs) would also contribute on offense.

Greer feels the Rattlers’ opening struggles of the season are behind them.

“I think we have more to go,” Greer said. “I’m really excited about what I saw (tonight). I saw a different thing… Now, it’s like, ‘Who’s next?’”

Belleview (14-6) will travel to Taylor (Pierson) on Friday for a 6:30 p.m. contest, while Forest (9-9) looks to bounce back while hosting Lake Weir on Friday at 7 p.m.

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