EAST MANATEE - The freshman is talented enough to bat fifth for a first-place team.
Yet Jessica Gore's greatest asset, according to her coach, is her ability to pinpoint her mistakes.
Case in point: Braden River's 3-2 victory over visiting Palmetto on Monday night. Gore struck out looking during her first two at-bats, watching the same low and outside pitch zip past her.
So in the bottom of the seventh, with the game in the balance, Gore made an adjustment. She took a similar offering from Palmetto pitcher Brittany Cummings and laced a game-tying triple to right-center. When Cummings' first pitch to the next batter, Cara Pogan, ricocheted off the backstop, Gore bolted from third and slid in with the game-winning run.
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"That triple . . . every single call I got called on, it was that pitch," said Gore, who added a run-scoring single in the fifth. "It was outside, and it was low, and we've been working on it at practice every day, and I didn't think I'd be able to do it. And I just swung at it."
In doing so, Gore drove in Kaycee Wells and got the sort of hit that had been eluding the Pirates (8-1, 6-0 Class 4A-District 10) all evening. They stranded seven baserunners over the first four innings, including the first, when Braden River left the bases loaded.
"I had complete faith in Gore," said Braden River coach Kaththea Smith. "I really did. . . . She's so intense, she's so focused, and when the time comes, I really think she can put it in play."
Gore's late-inning heroics made a winner of starting pitcher Krista Wells, who struck out three and seemed to get stronger as the game went longer - she needed just 22 pitches to sail through the final three innings.
The Tigers (3-6, 0-3) touched her up in the second inning, stringing together three singles and taking a 1-0 lead on Cassie Lewis' run-scoring hit. Two innings later, Kaycee Hatcher plated Taylor Lewis with a sacrifice fly to put Palmetto up 2-0.
Cummings was making the lead stand and opened the seventh by fanning Katie Gardner. But Cummings, who struck out six, didn't record another out, and the Pirates' sensational sophomore season continued.
"I've said it from day one - I think they're good. I think they're real good," Smith said. "And they've got a great chance if they just play their game and they stay focused. They've got the talent.
"I'm proud of them. I'm very proud of them."
Palmetto 010 100 0 - 2 6 3
Braden River 000 010 2 - 3 5 2
WP - Krista Wells. LP - Brittany Cummings. 3B - Jessica Gore (BR). Team records: Palmetto 3-6, 0-3 Class 4A-District 10; Braden River 8-1, 6-0.