Third baseman Jayla Creamer launches a successful throw to first base for the out. [ David Adlerstein | The Times ]
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Bad night in Bristol

Liberty County comeback wins regional

The climactic rush out of the dugout by the Lady Bulldog players onto their home field was a rare moment in sports, as they jumped several feet off the ground in their celebration.

So too was the rare feeling of emptiness in the hearts of the Lady Seahawk players as they watched a bloop single land in just the right spot in right field no-man’s land to score three runs, the last one the winning one, and felt the pain of watching a 6-1 lead evaporate in the bottom of the seventh inning, for a 7-6 regional championship loss.

It had been by all measures a remarkable game in that Franklin County had played a virtually error-free ball game, had hit every bit as well as Liberty County, and were literally a strike away from earning a berth in the Final Four Class 1 varsity girls softball tournament finale.

Here’s what happened.

Liberty County had scored a run in the bottom of the second, and were clinging to a 1-0 lead going into the top of the fifth. It looked like it might end up that sort of affair, a narrow win for the home team.

But then Franklin County got its game on.

Sophomore Averie Johnson beat out a throw to first, and then junior Raegan Dempsey, playing as the designated hitter, laid down a sacrifice bunt that advanced Johnson to second.

Freshman Jayla Creamer, who played third base, then got on base on an error, followed by junior Sarah Ham flying out to center for the second out. 

Seventh grader Shasta Butler then slashed a base hit to left, followed by a double off the wall by sophomore Lexi Webb, and the Lady Seahawks had two runs on the board.

Junior Micahlyn O’Neal then smacked a base hit to left center that brought home Butler, and junior Charity Larkin singled to right to bring home seventh grader Amelia Wolferseder, who was pinch running for Webb.

The Lady Seahawks’ 4-1 lead would be expanded by two more in the top of the sixth, when Johnson opened with a walk, and Dempsey struck out, as Johnson advanced to second ahead of the catcher’s throw.

Creamer’s slap hit was placed well enough for her to be safe at first.

Ham then launched a long ball to left field that scored Johnson. Butler struck out and then with Webb at the plate, a passed ball scored Creamer.

Ham was masterful in the sixth, as she got three straight batters out, on a grounder and two pop flies.

It was in the bottom of the seventh when everything went right for the Lady Bulldogs.

Sophomore Lauren Davis singled to center, and senior Caleigh Peddie singled to right.

Freshman Taylor Kincaid then flew out to Johnson in center for the first out.

Junior Chesnee Hires followed with a single to center that loaded the bases.

A passed ball scored a Liberty County run, and then a walk to senior Kallan Mercer once again loaded the bases.

Ham got the next batter to pop out to Butler at shortstop for the second out.

It was then that freshman Abella Faircloth kept fouling off Ham’s pictures before singling to right field to score the second run.

The Lady Bulldogs feared Cha’Miya Williams, a speedster with the ability to hit for power, came up and she singled to left to score the third run.

It then came time for senior Gabrie Flowers to make contact with the ball just enough to launch a pop fly just behind first base, in a desolate spot just shy of the foul line, and with three runners coming home, all of them running at the crack of the bat, Liberty County had its win.

“I thought our girls played very well in all facets of the game,” said coach Scott Collins. “To lose a game like that is shocking, but I was proud of the class they displayed. 

“This team is both talented and resilient. With everyone coming back, they have a great chance again next year,” he said.

The Lady Seahawks scattered 10 hits, with O’Neal going 3 for 3 and driving in a run. Larkin had two hits, and Webb had one, a two-run double. Both Ham and Butler had doubles that drove in a run. Johnson and Creamer each had hits. Wolferseder stole a base.

Ham finished with seven earned runs on 10 hits, three strikeouts and eight walks.

A couple of days following the loss. Collins announced he was stepping down as softball coach. He said it was a decision he had made weeks ago, and one he planned to announce following the completion of the 2023-24 season, one in which Franklin County finished 16-12 and as regional runner-up.

“It’s time to give someone else a chance at the helm,” he said. “I’ve had a great run and had the privilege to coach not only outstanding ballplayers, but kids who were dedicated to both academic and program success. 

“Every season was very special. The commitment our kids made was second to none,” Collins said.

“I’ve also been fortunate to have long-time assistant coaches who worked hard and helped provide program continuity,” he said, citing Mike Todd’s 10 years, Brock Johnson’s nine years, Allen Ham’s five years and Teresa Segree’s four years. 

“We also have great community and administrative support here. Our facilities are outstanding and constantly improving,” Collins said. “I also appreciate Mr. (Steve) Lanier’s support and his desire to make Franklin County Schools first class in every way. 

“I’ve had a lot of fun and leave with few regrets. I’m not retiring from school and I’m going to be part of Coach (John) Cooper’s football staff,” he said. “It’s been awhile since I’ve coached football, and I’m excited about it.”

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Meet the Editor

David Adlerstein, The Apalachicola Times’ digital editor, started with the news outlet in January 2002 as a reporter.

Prior to then, David Adlerstein began as a newspaperman with a small Boston weekly, after graduating magna cum laude from Brandeis University in Waltham, Massachusetts. He later edited the weekly Bellville Times, and as business reporter for the daily Marion Star, both not far from his hometown of Columbus, Ohio.

In 1995, he moved to South Florida, and worked as a business reporter and editor of Medical Business newspaper. In Jan. 2002, he began with the Apalachicola Times, first as reporter and later as editor, and in Oct. 2020, also began editing the Port St. Joe Star.

Wendy Weitzel The Star Digital Editor

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