In the championship game, the Gators earned a 11-9 victory over the Panthers to claim the 2019 Bristol Girls Little League Softball City Series title.
The Panthers had advanced to the Thursday’s championship game against the top-seeded Gators after winning a thrilling 15-11 elimination game against the Velocity on Wednesday.
The first three innings of the final game displayed excellent pitching by Samantha Burke and Brooklynne Whitlock and exceptional defense by both teams.
The Gators jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the first inning with Arianna Rivera and Makayla Bouchard scoring the game’s first two runs, while Whitlock held the Panthers scoreless through the first three frames.
The play of the day, and perhaps the entire City Series, came off the bat of the Panthers’ Delaney Bartell in the top of the third inning. Bartell hit a deep fly ball down the right field line that appeared to be headed for extra bases, but Shanya Baker, who had just entered the game as a defensive replacement, ranged 50 feet to her left to make an improbable catch by the right field line. Whitlock struck out the next batter and retired the third batter of the inning on a grounder back to the circle.
The Gators added a run in the bottom of the third, as Libby Chambers scored to take 4-0 lead.
In the top of the fourth inning, the Panthers capitalized on walks to Jayna Hatcher and Ava Johnston and several errors to score four unearned runs on hard-hit balls by Burke and Sophia Pelkey to the right and left sides of the field, tying the game 4-4.
The Gators answered in the bottom of the fourth inning with five runs of their own to take a 9-4 lead. However, the scoring would not end there. The Panthers scored another five runs on singles by Burke and Bartell in the top of the fifth inning, which was extended by defensive errors on the right and left sides of the field, tying the game 9-9.
The Gators regained the lead when Arianna Rivera stole home in the bottom of the fifth, followed by another run scored by Makayla Bouchard, giving the Gators an 11-9 advantage.
Whitlock survived a leadoff walk to Madison Charette in the top of the sixth inning when Burke lined out to third baseman Rivera, who was able to quickly throw across the diamond to first baseman Hailey Beebe to complete the double play. The final batter of the game hit a fly ball to second baseman Kayla Webber, who made the catch to preserve the victory for the Gators.