It was ideal weather for a good old-fashion softball game as a soft south wind blew through Hornet Field on the campus of Lafayette High School. The air was filled, not with the smell of flowers, but “icy hot” that seemed to be the solution for all the sore arms of the Lady Hornets. Neither the smell nor the North Florida Christian Lady Eagles could quiet the bats of Lafayette as they rolled to a 10-0 game-shortened win over the visitors from Tallahassee. This earned the Lady Hornets a regional championship and vaulted them into the State Final Four at Plant City.

Lady Hornet coach, Derek Garland, feels his team is starting to jell just at the right time. “This team is really starting to come together,” he said following the victory. “One through 13, all of them are playing their role. Kristin (Millard) comes and plays a great third base for us. You can’t say enough for what this team has done.”

All but two players collected hits for the Lady Hornets as they amassed 11 hits in the game. Lindsey Hamlin was almost untouchable allowing two scratch hits and finding herself in a jam but once. North Florida loaded the bases on Hamlin in the third inning with one out. Hamlin got G.G. Gonzalez to bounce to third for a force at home. Then Audrey Major rolled out to third baseman Millard to end the inning.

The Lady Hornets defense was spectacular playing errorless softball. Hamlin retired the final seven players she faced and finished with two strike outs and two walks. She did hit one batter.

The games tone may have been set in the bottom of the first inning when Lafayette scored four times to take a 4-0 lead. “We got Natalie (Land) one and pushed home a couple of quick runs,” said Garland. “That gave our girls some confidence and they started to believe they could beat North Florida.”

Coach Garland credited the turn around of his team to an earlier loss to Bell during the regular season. “That night when we got beat by Bell that was the turning point for our season,” he said. “We had a heart-to-heart meeting with the team and from that time on they started to play “small ball.”

The Hornets ended the game with a run in their half of the fifth inning that gave them the 10 run lead involving the 10-run rule. Kelsey Land reached on an first baseman’s error. Natalie Land singled her to second and she trotted home on Hamlin’s RBI single. Hamlin had three runs batted in to go with her two hits. Natalie Land also finished with two safeties.

The hit that set the tone for the rest of the game came in the first inning when Millard singled home two runs and Ashley Myers doubled home two more for the 4-0 edge. But the Lady Hornets were not finished when they came to bat in the bottom of the second. The Hornets started playing “small ball” and that resulted in three more runs for a 7-0 margin. Hamlin roped a double to the fence driving home two runners. She scored when Myers reached on an error.

Coach Garland believes his team is ready to pursue a state title, knowing the competition will get tougher at the next level. “The competition is fixing to get a lot tougher for us, but these girls are focused and they are ready to play,” he said. “The girls will have to work a little bit harder. But we are playing good ball right now.”

It marked the first time a Lafayette softball team has been one of the final four teams in the state since the Lady Hornets went in 2000.

Third baseman Kristin Millard said the team came through and she is proud of their accomplishments. “I thank God we did it,” she said. “We played well and have been playing good since the district tournament.”

Millard, who, according to her estimate, came out her slump just at the right time. “I’m glad I got that hit in the first inning,” she said. “Hopefully it will keep going through the state. I am very happy we are going to Plant City and excited about going.”

Hamlin said her team knew they could be one of the final teams in the state meet this year. “It has been awhile since we’ve been to the state tournament,” she said. “We are finally going and I am so happy. We were ready to play tonight. Because they beat us every year in basketball we wanted to beat them tonight.”

Katy Jo Walker was near perfect from the plate with three hits in four at-bats. “I tell you, when we beat Bell in the finals of the district tournament, it took a lot of heart to win that one,” said Walker. “We played that game with our hearts and we have been playing that way ever since then.”

Walker said Plant City is where the family is from and pleased they will get to come out and watch her play in the Final Four. “They have never seen me play,” said the senior catcher. “I am so happy. It means the world to me because it is something I have always wanted to do.”

Kalie Sapp singled home a big run in the Lady Hornets half of the fourth inning that set up the tenth run in the fifth. Her single scored Millard, who had reached on a two base error. Eileen Givens had a base hit in the third inning and scored a run. Marla Alcazar hit the ball hard but at someone.

North Florida had singles in the first and third innings but was shut down by Hamlin over the final two innings. Kala Stinson singled in the second inning and Gonzalez had a third inning base hit. Heather Hughes took the loss for the Lady Eagles working the first three innings. She allowed eight runs on eight hits while striking out five.

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