Raiders take aim a district softball crown

Navarre’s softball team is seeking its first district championship in nearly a decade when it takes on Niceville Thursday night. The Raiders host the Eagles at 5 p.m.

Riding the high of a 4-3 win over Milton in the District 2-7A semifinals Tuesday, the Raiders are hoping to win their first title since 2011 when head coach Kelly Hayes was the starting shortstop on the team.

“We knew they had it in them,” Hayes said. “It’s nice that all the things we talked about this season, the little things, showed up tonight, and we played really well. It feels awesome.”

Rachel Hester and Lakin Grindland tallied two hits apiece, and Hester drove in two runs in the thrilling win.

Navarre led 4-3 going into the seventh and Allison Gutierrez finished out her gutsy complete-game effort. Lauren Kane made a clutch diving catch at third for one of the outs as the Raiders held on for a win.

Gutierrez gave up seven hits but put 11 batters away on strikeouts.

“For the first time in a while I wasn’t nervous,” Gutierrez said. “I calmed my nerves and was determined as ever.”

Big hits and clutch plays on a mild evening propelled Navarre to its first district final since 2014, including a pair of big catches by Mary Beloat in the outfield. The Raiders also didn’t strike out once in the win.

Regardless of Thursday’s outcome, the Raiders are assured of a regional tourney berth for the first time since 2014. The quarterfinal round is May 8.

“I’m so stoked,” Grindland said. “We’ve worked so hard for this. I can’t wait to show up and play.”

Read more about the Raiders’ softball team in the May 9 issue of Navarre Press. Subscribe online at navarrepress.com for as little as $38 per year.

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