Knights edge Rattlers on the softball diamond

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Posted April 10, 2023 | By Mark Pinson
Special to Ocala Gazette
Photos By Bruce Ackerman/Ocala Gazette

Vanguard scored four runs in the fourth inning with Kaylee Myers and Hannah Davis delivering run-scoring hits, and Davis struck out 13 Belleview batters and scattered eight hits in a complete-game effort as the Knights beat the Rattlers by a score of 4-3 on a rainy and windy Monday night.

The win improved Class 4A Vanguard to 12-4 on the season.

“Hannah was on fire tonight,” said Knights coach Carrie Vance. “She had it all working and has gotten better as the season has progressed. The game was closer than it should have been, but we like to make it interesting.”

Class 5A Belleview, which had the tying run thrown out at the plate in the bottom of the seventh inning, dropped to 8-10 overall.

“The girls fought hard and I’m very proud of them for battling the entire game,” said long-time Rattlers coach Gary Greer. “My decision to send the runner home the last inning is going to stick with me for a couple of hours and then it’s time to move on. We’re a young team with only one senior and we hung tough with a good Vanguard squad.”

Pitching dominated the first two innings as Vanguard’s Davis and Belleview freshman right-hander Randi O’Cull kept the game scoreless.

Vanguard, which banged out eight hits, broke through in the top of the fourth inning against O’Cull by taking advantage of a pair of walks, a wild pitch and a run-scoring single by Myers and an RBI double to right-center field by Davis, who went 2 for 2 at the plate, to take a 4-0 lead.

Belleview brought Gianni Santiago on in relief of O’Cull with a runner on second base and two outs and Santiago induced a fly ball to left field to end the inning.

The Rattlers managed to put a runner on base in the first four innings against Davis, but the sophomore right-hander managed to wiggle out of trouble each time to keep the Knights on top, 4-0.

Belleview got on the scoreboard with the aid of a pair of Vanguard errors in the bottom of the fifth inning. Jordan McLaughlin lined a one-out single to right field, stole second base and scored when the Vanguard first baseman misplayed a throw from Davis on a comebacker to the pitcher.

The ball was chased down, but another throwing error by the Knights allowed Santiago to score to pull the Rattlers within 4-2. Davis bore down to strike out the next hitter to end the threat.

Vanguard had an opportunity to score some insurance runs in the top of the seventh inning with the bases loaded and only one out, but Santiago, who tossed 4 1/3 scoreless innings of relief, retired the next two hitters to keep the game close.

Belleview rallied in the bottom of the frame as McLaughlin reached on a fielder’s choice ground out and scored on a booming one-out double off the centerfield fence by Lynnay Howard. The Rattlers brought in a pinch runner for Howard and Santiago singled to right field, but the runner was thrown out at the plate fairly easily.

Davis got a ground ball to second base for the final out in the hard-fought 4-3 victory.

Vanguard is back in action on Tuesday night with a road game at rival Forest, while Belleview hosts Lake Weir on Tuesday.

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