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North dominates Lely in regional softball opener

May 9, 2018
By CHUCK BALLARO ( , North Fort Myers Neighbor

Lely learned something Tuesday that the North Fort Myers High School softball team already knew: speed kills.

Sajarie Jones had two hits and scored three times and freshman Kirsten Gnagay hit an inside-the-park home run to lead the Red Knights to an 11-1 victory in the first round of the Region 6A-3 playoffs in a game that ended in the bottom of the fifth inning because of the mercy rule.

North will face Barron Collier Tuesday at home. The Cougars came from behind to beat Mariner, 6-5.

Article Photos

North Fort Myers freshman Kirsten Gnagey (center) is greeted by teammates Natavia Ellis (32) and Julia Herrmann (10) after her two-run, inside-the-park home run in the Red Knights’ 11-1 win over Lely in the regional quarterfinals Wednesday night. To view more photos from the game, see our Facebook page.


Jones also stole three bases, two of them on an unusual double steal as North used its speed advantage to run the Trojans out of the ball game quickly.

"When Sage gets on base, good things happen, and when Haley and the meat of the order are ripping the ball, it makes big difference," North coach Jeff Miner said. "The freshmen who get some hits and get bunts down, that makes us a great team."

Lely (13-11) scored in the first inning on a Brinea Palacios triple that right fielder Frankie Hertzog lost in the sun.

That would be the Trojans' only bright spot as North took the lead in the bottom of the inning on a Natavia Ellis triple and Sarah Giompalo's double for a 2-1 lead.

North (23-5) added two more in the third. Jones singled, stole second, saw nobody was covering third as the Trojans were playing for the bunt, and just kept going.

"As a baserunner, you read the defense and I found their third baseman commits to a bunt. I saw it was open," Jones said. "I know the team that makes the aggressive moves dictates the game."

Haley Weaver, who also scores three times, brought Jones home with a single and came home herself on a Giompalo sac fly to make it 4-1.

The Red Knights blew the game open in the fourth with four runs, highlighted by Gnagay's home run and Emma Johnson's two-run single, making the score 8-1 as Lely tried to bring in relievers to slow down the North attack, to no avail.

"Coach told me to wait for my pitch and it came right down the middle," Gnagay said. "At 250 feet to the fence, it helped. If it was 200, I probably wouldn't have hit it."

Johnson settled down after that rough start, going four innings and allowing one hit and two walks. Freshman Sydney Morris came on and pitched a scoreless inning for North.

Meanwhile, Lely relievers couldn't get the ball over the plate as they walked nine batters in the final two innings, including a bases-loaded one to Giompalo, her third RBI of the night, to end it.

"It is what it is. They outhit us and the team that hits the most usually wins. I'm OK with that," said Lely coach Yelissa Rivera. "They are fast. We've faced that type of speed, but not enough to get comfortable with it."



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