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Varying pitching styles, same results

Having Michelle Bradley and Rhiannon Bogaert lead the Land O'Lakes pitching staff is like watching Randy Johnson and Greg Maddux, said coach Jamie Martin.

She's not kidding.

Martin likens Bradley, a freshman flamethrower, to Johnson's role with the New York Yankees. Bogaert, a senior, has the pinpoint control of the Cubs' Maddux, she said.

Those comparisons to potential Hall of Famers, however, are lost on Bradley and Bogaert.

"They don't actually get it," Martin said. "They don't keep up with baseball, so they don't know (about Johnson and Maddux). They're two bright girls, but when it comes to baseball they're clueless."

Martin's comparisons may be a stretch, but there is no downplaying the contributions of Bradley and Bogaert in the Gators' 5-0 start.

Bogaert is a fourth-year starter who came into this season with 33 career wins and 208 strikeouts. Last season, her 0.94 earned-run average and 86 strikeouts.

Bogaert is off to a 3-0 start with an 0.60 ERA and 14 strikeouts.

Bradley is 2-0 with a 1.50 ERA and 15 strikeouts.

"(Bradley is) just a hardball thrower," Martin said, adding, "Rhiannon doesn't have all the speed there, but she'll get people to pop up or ground out."

In its strong start, Land O'Lakes has won big and won close. At one end of the spectrum was a season-opening 31-0 trouncing of Central on Feb. 7. The Gators edged Mitchell 6-5 Friday.

That victory over the Mustangs avenged a 5-4 loss in last year's district semifinal. Land O'Lakes led 4-1 in that game before Mitchell rallied for a seventh-inning win.

"We owed Mitchell one from last year," Land O'Lakes athletic director Chuck Moehle said.

"It was a good game," Mitchell coach Scott Bisbe said. "We just let it get away from us."

Friday's game did not have as much at stake, but Martin said it revealed her team's talent and character.

"I just knew we were going to do well," Martin said. "As long as we continue to play well there's nothing that surprises me."

Two freshmen pitchers started Friday, Bradley and Mitchell's Olivia Kline, and both made more of an impact with their bats than their right arms. Bradley hit a three-run home run and Kline a two-run homer.

Mitchell snapped a tie at 3 with two runs in the top of the seventh, but Land O'Lakes scored three in its final at-bat. Bradley hit a two-run single with the bases loaded and two out. Then Loren Smith's single drove in Ashley Rigau for the winning run.

For a freshman, Bradley, a travel ball player, has the composure of a veteran. Before that clutch hit, Martin said Bradley "just looked at me and said, "I got this, coach.' "

A key player has missed the Gators' strong start. Shortstop Jessica Tejas, a fourth-year starter, sprained an ankle in the opener and might not return for another week.

Utility player Jessica Martinieri has played mostly at short in Tejas' absence.