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BROOKSVILLE — Hernando squandered numerous opportunities early Friday to put runs on the scoreboard in its road tilt at Nature Coast.
The Sharks’ Nichole Beverly made sure the Leopards would pay late for their shortcoming.
Beverly unloaded on a full-count pitch in the sixth inning of a tie game, delivering a three-run blast over the fence in centerfield, to pace the Sharks’ 4-2 victory.
For Beverly, it was her third three-run home run of the season. Friday’s, though, couldn’t have come at a better time with her team searching for a momentum-building win against its local county rival.
“This game was really a confidence booster for our team to be honest,” Beverly said. “It’s so awesome.”
Beverly fouled off a handful of pitches from Hernando starter Brittany Flannery before finding one she liked and crushing it out of the deepest part of the park.
“I was just looking for something to hit, something that I wasn’t going to pop up or ground out,” she said.
Before Beverly’s blast, it appeared Hernando (9-8) would escape despite the lack of run support.
The Leopards had runners in scoring position in each of the first four innings but failed to bring any across the plate. In the third inning, the Leopards loaded the bases against Nature Coast starter Sam Oliveria, forcing Sharks coach April Pelham to go to her bullpen and bring on Mariah Crawford. She got the first batter she faced to fly out and struck out the next two to escape the inning unscathed.
“Tonight, we had a little combo thing going with our pitchers, and it worked,” Pelham said. “When our pitchers do well, we do well. When they don’t, we don’t. It goes hand-in-hand. When our pitchers are on, it motivates the whole team to do well.”
Still, Hernando was able to grab a 1-0 lead in the sixth inning. Whitney Sims drew a walk to lead off the inning. With Sims on third and two outs, Ashley Sims laid down a perfectly executed squeeze to score the Leopards’ first run.
In the bottom of the sixth, though, Brooke Majors and Crawford opened the inning for Nature Coast (7-9) with back-to-back singles. Kaitlyn Glynn’s sacrifice bunt advanced the runners, and Dana Mackiewics laced an RBI single to center to tie the game.
With the win, Nature Coast avenged a 10-0, five-inning loss to Hernando three weeks earlier.
“I think tonight was a very important win for our team mentally,” Pelham said. “Tonight, they all believed in each other. They all came together as a team, and they supported each other.”