BRADEN RIVER — Throughout the regular season, the Lady Pirates had just two goals in mind: to win their second consecutive district title and to advance to the regional tournament.
By season’s end, the Braden River softball team had achieved both of its goals, cruising to an undefeated district season. Soon the Lady Pirates began looking ahead to the regional tournament, targeting in on a new set of goals — beat Bartow in the opening round of the tournament.
It was a situation with which the Lady Pirates were all too familiar. After Braden River claimed its first district title last season, they sustained a 1-0 loss to the visiting Yellow Jackets. Looking to redeem themselves, the Lady Pirates entered the Class 4A-Region 3 quarterfinals April 28 with something to prove.
Braden River (21-6) held off Bartow (24-3) through the first five innings, taking a 3-2 lead into the top of the sixth inning. But in the final two innings, the momentum shifted, and soon, the Lady Pirates found themselves on the outside looking in, as the Yellow Jackets scored 11 runs to seal a 13-3 victory.
“The girls were fired up,” Braden River coach Doug Powell said. “There’s no doubt they really, really wanted this, and they easily could have. One little mistake on a team like that, and it just snowballs.
“We were there — right where we wanted to be actually with the lead,” he said. “But one little mistake and a couple more after that — you can’t do that on a team like Bartow.”
As Bartow continued to light up the scoreboard, Powell couldn’t help but acknowledge his team’s improvement.
After failing to cross home plate in last year’s quarterfinal, the Lady Pirates battled Bartow pitcher Courtney Putnam, scoring three runs on six hits. Freshman Huntyre Elling started things off for Braden River in the bottom of the fourth inning when she hit an RBI double to center field to bring in senior Cara Pogan.
Braden River took the lead in the fifth inning when juniors Lauren Powell and Kaycee Wells knocked in seniors Katie Gardner and Taylor Paulson. Elling led the way for the Lady Pirates going 2-for-3 with a pair of doubles and an RBI.
With the loss, Gardner, Pogan, Paulson and Sam Volker closed the book on their storied careers at Braden River. But with both of its pitchers and the vast majority of its infield returning, the Lady Pirates are already looking ahead to the future.
“Last year, their pitcher shut us out and this year we progressed,” Powell said. “Defense just wasn’t quite there, but we’re looking for bigger and better things.”
“They had a great season,” he added. “The girls surpassed last season, and that was our goal.”
Contact Jen Blanco at email@example.com.
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