By Kyle LoJacono
Jerry English spent 27 years coaching the Land O’ Lakes softball team.
The veteran skipper was back at his old field on March 26, but this time he was representing the away team on the scoreboard — Academy at the Lakes.
“It brings back a lot of memories,” English said. “I’ve spent a lot of good years in the dugout here.”
The current Gators (4-14) were more interested in the now, winning the contest 8-3.
The game started out promising for the Wildcats (11-4) as they pushed across three runs on four hits in the first inning.
Land O’ Lakes answered with four in the bottom of the frame. Senior catcher Meghan Sfraga, who has committed to Georgian Court University in New Jersey, drove in her team’s first two runs on her first of three doubles.
“The energy was really good,” said Sfraga, who finished 3-for-3 with four RBI. “We were down, but everyone was positive. Just going up to bat we had that feeling that things were going to work out.”
Sfraga also threw out Maria Aumaitre trying to steal second for the first out of the fourth.
“She does great behind the plate and is a really good hitter,” said first-year Gators coach John Clapp. “You always count on her getting on base.”
Clapp was also happy with how his squad battled back.
“They do hit well, but they’re still a young team, and they’re still learning,” Clapp said. “They’re aggressive with the bats and the defense is solid.”
Land O’ Lakes senior pitcher Alyssa Christian shut the academy out for the final six frames.
“After the first inning I started to settle in,” Christian said. “I was feeling really good after we took the lead.”
The Wildcats did load the bases with one out in the fourth. Christian got University of South Florida commit Lauren Evans to pop out, setting up a two-out matchup with the opposing pitcher Sydney Boynton.
Boynton hit a rocket that struck Christian in the leg, but she composed herself enough to get the out at first before worrying about any potential injury.
“I saw it come back and I thought it was going to hurt, but I didn’t feel it because I was thinking about getting the out,” Christian said.
Sfraga is hopeful the energy the squad played with will transfer to their remaining games.
“I’m very proud of how we played tonight,” Sfraga said. “We haven’t had that extra burst to push us to wins. Tonight we had that.”
The Gators host Fivay April 10 at 7 p.m., while the academy hosts Calvary Christian April 5 at 4 p.m.