Lester no-hits Gainesville again, ‘Noles head to region quarters

WINDER - It’d be fair to say the Gainesville softball team has seen about all it wants to from Whitney Lester. The Salem ace no-hit the Red Elephants for the second time in five days, leading Salem to an 8-0 victory in six innings in the first round of the Region 8-AAAAA Tournament Monday at the Diamond Doggs Baseball/Softball Complex.

Salem (9-10), the No. 6 seed who finished 3-5 against region opponents during the regular season, will play third-seeded Apalachee in a best-of-three quarterfinal series starting Wednesday at 5:00 p.m.

Lester, one of just three seniors on the roster, walked one and struck out seven, while one Gainesville batter reached on an error. Lester faced one over the minimum in the five-inning no-hitter September 25.

“Whit came up big last week throwing a no hitter (and) she has been keeping her pitch count low and hitting her spots. She worked the batters well (Monday),” said Salem coach Ronnie Miller, whose team has won three consecutive games for the second time in 2013. Lester was one of five Seminoles’ with two hits Monday, along with Makayla Whitfield, Peyton Mitchell, Lane Powell and Mariah Briney. Now, Salem will try to equal its feat from a year ago when it defeated Gainesville in the first round, then swept two games from Flowery Branch to secure a spot in the Class AAAAA state tournament.

Apalachee finished 6-2 in the regular season against league foes, including a 10-2 win over Salem on September 17. But the last time the teams met in the region tournament, Salem won 7-1 to clinch a No. 3 state seed.

“Going into (the) Apalachee game we feel that any team in our region can be beat on any given day,” Miller said. “We just have to hit and play good defense.”