BRADEN RIVER — Whether it’s on the mound or at the plate, Hannah Loyer constantly is looking for the perfect pitch.
This season, in particular, every pitch counts.
The Braden River High senior pitcher and center fielder is off to an impressive start — last Thursday night proved to be no different. Loyer blasted a two-run home run in the bottom of the third inning to propel Braden River to a 3-0 non-district victory over cross-town rival Lakewood Ranch.
“I had no idea. It felt good, but I didn’t know it was going (over the fence),” Loyer says of her home run. “I’ve been having better pitch selection, not swinging at everything, so that helps my hitting a lot.
“It’s a big deal,” she says. “It feels really good (to beat Lakewood) because even though it’s not a district game, it’s still one of our big rivalries.”
Loyer, who is batting .416 through the first six games of the season, went 2-for-3 at the plate and drove in all three of the Lady Pirates’ runs.
“Hannah has definitely matured for her senior season,” Braden River coach Erin Spivey says. “She’s come out every day with a great attitude. She works hard. She’s definitely been game on. She’s done a great job.”
Loyer’s home run helped relieve some of the pressure from Lady Pirates pitcher Courtney Mirabella, who put together another dominant performance.
Mirabella hurled her third straight shutout, allowing four hits and three walks while striking out 14.
“I’ve been working on my speed a lot, and it’s getting there,” Mirabella says. “I’ve picked up a lot of movement since my freshman year, and that’s been my biggest thing.
“I always love playing Lakewood,” she says. “It’s always really good competition, and it’s always a good game no matter what. It’s just exciting, and I’m glad we won.”
Mirabella, who signed with North Carolina State University, has a .29 ERA through four starts this season and is averaging 14 strikeouts a game.
“Courtney is, in my mind, one of the premier pitchers in the state of Florida,” Lakewood coach Tony Cummins says. “I’ve watched the kid for a long time, and she’s always been a dominant pitcher. She’s cool under pressure. She never gets rattled, and she does her job every time.”
Lakewood, who was without injured starters Jenn Trotter (ankle) and Jackie Schoff (shoulder), attempted to rally with two outs in the sixth inning, after Shea Fisher drew a walk and McKaleigh Goodale singled. Mirabella, however, closed out the inning with a strikeout.
“We played solid ball,” Spivey says. “Their nerves are high any time they play Lakewood Ranch, just like Lakewood Ranch is with us. So, for them, the six seniors, they were pumped up and ready to go.”
Lakewood’s Taylor Newton and Sierra Schappacher both singled in the seventh inning before Mirabella closed the game.
“We battled hard,” Cummins says. “We worked all week for Courtney. We’ve known her for a long time. We helped her out a bunch in the beginning, but, considering our injuries and our sickness, I think we hung in and battled.”
Braden River and Lakewood will face each other again in their regular season finale April 9.
Contact Jen Blanco at [email protected].