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HomeSportsSoftballLions Fall to Ducks in Regional Quarterfinal

Lions Fall to Ducks in Regional Quarterfinal

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On Wednesday night, the Cornerstone Charter Academy Ducks (25-3) won the region 2A quarterfinal over the Hernando Christian Academy Lions (15-5) in Orlando. The visitors fought hard, but the Ducks took the postseason matchup by a 13-0 advantage in five innings.

 

 

This was thanks to a dominant performance from Senior Pitcher Mia Rosario who struck out nine batters and threw a complete game. Coming into the quarterfinal, Lions’ Head Coach Dianne Smith knew her squad was going up against a talented Ducks team and her girls had yet to face a pitcher of Rosario’s caliber. Despite the less-than-ideal outcome, the coach is proud of the fight her team showed on the road.

 

“We knew going in, it was going to be a tough team,” said Coach Smith. “They have got some incredible players all the way through their lineup, their pitchers – we have several girls on our team that have not seen a pitcher with her speed and movement. So, we knew it was going to be a tough game. We held pretty tight the first couple of innings.”

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The Lions would attempt to hold firm allowing three runs in the first and another three in the second, but the Ducks’ lead would balloon in the third frame thanks to a barrage of bats. The home team would score their final seven points in this inning alone as part of their 10 total hits. Seven different Ducks players would make it across the plate, but Eighth Grader Yamilette Cordova and Senior Ayani Hernandez excelled with three runs and two RBIs apiece.

 

The visitors did not quit, though. When the fourth inning rolled around, the Lions fought “with some of the best defense our girls have put on all year,” and retired the first three batters of the frame, said Smith. Unfortunately for the Lions, it would not be enough to stave off an early exit from the matchup due to Rosario’s masterful night from the mound.

 

HCA had the dynamic of being a team that was one-half highly experienced and the other half green and developing. Combined with a couple of players needing ACL surgeries around spring break, the Lions’ 14-0 start to the season would give way towards the end.

 

“[The injuries] hurt us quite a bit,” said Coach Smith. “Our roster kind of shrunk, girls started to get worn out, and that happens. Kind of brought a slow end to our season, but amazing season overall. I was super proud of the girls. I let the girls know last night; one game does not get us into regionals. It is the work of an entire season, and they definitely did that.”

 

HCA Pitcher Kaylana Lyons delivers a pitch from the mound during Wednesday's Regional Quarterfinal. [Photo Provided by Sean Gill]
HCA Pitcher Kaylana Lyons delivers a pitch from the mound during Wednesday’s Regional Quarterfinal. [Photo Provided by Sean Gill]

The Lions have had many standouts this year including Sophomore Kaylana Lyons, who stepped into the pitching role despite not originally playing the position. The shift was needed when HCA’s starter from last year moved away and left an opening. Lyons has developed a variety of pitches “with some decent movement” despite not having the speed of more experienced pitchers, and she bore the weight of the role admirably enroute to a 15-win season.

 

Coach Smith pointed out a few other noteworthy contributors to this year’s squad including Shortstop Rae Easton, who “always shines defensively” and made some great plays in the matchup with CCA. Eighth Grader Addisyn Slocum can play infield and outfield and as a classic utility player. Sophomore Maria Bozman showed tremendous growth over the last offseason, and the Miller sisters (Freshman Layla Miller and Senior Breely Miller) drew praise from the head coach as well.

 

She noted Layla’s development throughout the season and Breely’s leadership qualities as particular highlights. Catcher Piper Gill, who is only a sixth grader, made a dynamic play at home that saved a run, which drew rave reviews from coach afterwards.

 

“In the spectrum of a 13-0 game, one run may not seem like a big deal, but she made an amazing play at the plate on a relay from Rae from the outfield and saved the run,” Coach Smith said. “That is just a momentum builder. Even if you are going down 13-0, any momentum you can build or any confidence you can allow the girls to have is always a plus.”

 

Smith will be looking for players like Bozman, Gill, and company to continue to take the next steps heading into the offseason and 2025.

 

Lions Catcher Piper Gill making the tag at home in 3rd inning, saves a run. [Photo Provided by Sean Gill]
Lions Catcher Piper Gill making the tag at home in 3rd inning, saves a run. [Photo Provided by Sean Gill]
Team photo. From left to right, Assistant Coach Nick Miller, Kiley Graf, Emma Hendricks, Suriana Pabon, Head Coach Dianne Smith, Layla Miller, Piper Gill, Rae Easton, Angie Isner, Maria Bozman, Kaylana Lyons, Addy Slocum, Rachel Hendricks. (Breely Miller in front). [Photo Provided by Sean Gill]
Team photo. From left to right, Assistant Coach Nick Miller, Kiley Graf, Emma Hendricks, Suriana Pabon, Head Coach Dianne Smith, Layla Miller, Piper Gill, Rae Easton, Angie Isner, Maria Bozman, Kaylana Lyons, Addy Slocum, Rachel Hendricks. (Breely Miller in front). [Photo Provided by Sean Gill]
HCA and CCA players and coaches' prayer after the game. [Photo Provided by Sean Gill]
HCA and CCA players and coaches’ prayer after the game. [Photo Provided by Sean Gill]
Lions Catcher Piper Gill making the tag at home in 3rd inning, saves a run. [Photo Provided by Sean Gill]
Lions Catcher Piper Gill making the tag at home in 3rd inning, saves a run. [Photo Provided by Sean Gill]
Lions' Shortstop Rae Easton, Pitcher Kaylana Lyons, and Catcher Piper Gill taking a timeout during Wednesday's postseason softball matchup. [Photo Provided by Sean Gill]
Lions’ Shortstop Rae Easton, Pitcher Kaylana Lyons, and Catcher Piper Gill taking a timeout during Wednesday’s postseason softball matchup. [Photo Provided by Sean Gill]

Austyn Szempruch
Austyn Szempruch
Austyn Szempruch is a Graduate with Distinction, University of Florida College of Journalism and Communications. He's written numerous articles reporting on Florida Gators football, basketball, and soccer teams; the sports of rugby, basketball, professional baseball, hockey, and the NFL Draft. Prior to Hernando Sun he was a contributor to ESPN, Gainesville, FL and Gator Country Multimedia, Inc. in Gainesville, FL, and Stadium Gale.
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