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SOFTBALL

ֱEnemies on the field, buddies off it:' How freshmen helped restore greatness at Trenton and GHS

Noah Ram
Gainesville Sun

The most iconic softball squad in North Central Florida ֱ Florida softball ֱ appeared to have struck gold this season with the emergence of freshman hurlers Keegan Rothrock and Ava Brown.

However, that first year magic seems to have carried over to the high school side.

Two freshmen ֱ Gainesville Highֱs Leanna Bourdage and Trentonֱs Addison Allaire ֱ have taken the Gainesville area by storm.

With the FHSAA postseason set to begin for both Thursday, the two childhood friends have their dominant programs set up for championship glory, in this season and beyond.

ֱI have to stay humble through it allֱ

Chris Chronister has seen his fair share of great pitchers in his years as GHS coach.

Thereֱs eventual Gator Katie Chronister and eventual James Madison hurler Alissa Humphrey.

Before Bourdage graced the circle at GHS, he knew the type of player heֱd be getting.

ֱI had seen her in travel ball and knew she could be pretty effective,ֱ Chronister said following the Hurricanes 2-0 win over Trenton on March 7. ֱYou just never know though until we get out there and play the game.ֱ

Since then, Bourdage has continued to improve. She kickstarted an 11-0 start for GHS, and more recently, shined on the mound with an 18 strikeout no hitter over state top 10 ranked Middleburg in the 5A-District 2 title game last Thursday.

Besides the Broncos and Tigers, Bourdage has faced tough competition all season. As a freshman with much to learn, she said she relishes these opportunities to grow.

ֱI have to continue to work hard to stay at that level and to rise even higher,ֱ Bourdage said. ֱI know that if I don't put in the work that wouldn't have happened, and if I continue to put in the work we can continue to get better and better.ֱ

Sheֱs put in the work alright. Bourdageֱs 200 Ks rank third in 5A. Her 0.55 ERA is second in the class, as are her 13 wins.

Gainesville Hurricanes Leanna Bourdage (14) pitches in the first inning. Gainesville High School hosted Columbia High School in softball at Gainesville High School in Gainesville, FL on Tuesday, April 30, 2024. Gainesville High School won 10-3. [Doug Engle/Gainesville Sun]

Among freshman, she places in the top five in all three.

Furthermore, Bourdage has shown her excellence at the plate. Sheֱs homered five times and scored 35 runs.

One of those came in the early season win over Trenton, where she used her baserunning to go from first to home on a couple of errors.

ֱI know my speed. I love base running and I'm pretty heads up about all my plays,ֱ Bourdage said. ֱI knew I had to run home and dive into home plate.ֱ

In both Chronister and Humphreyֱs first seasons, GHS went to the state and regional finals, respectively.

Bourdageֱs coach is bullish that the ֱCanes can do the same this season.

ֱLeanne is following in their footsteps, and it looks like the same scenario,ֱ Chronister said. ֱShe's a very confident and successful pitcher coming in, and I don't see that changing anytime soon.ֱ

ֱI have enough experience to relaxֱ

In Gilchrist County, Allaire is a freshman like Bourdage. But unlike her friend, this isnֱt her first season on varsity.

In fact, itֱs her fourth.

Like with Chronister, Trenton coach Clint Anderson saw immediately the beast Allaire was.

"We were practicing at Trenton, and we looked down at the middle school field,ֱ Anderson said. ֱThis kid was throwing and swinging the bat, and me and the other coaches walked down and we're like, ֱcome with us.ֱ

Allaire joined varsity as a sixth grader and played second base for the teamֱs 2021 state title winning squad.

Her pitching time increased in 2022 and 2023, but this season, Anderson saw a change in her work ethic.

ֱShe tries to outwork everybody and she's a perfectionist,ֱ Anderson said. ֱSheֱs going to work until she gets it right.ֱ

Allaire credited her teammates for the jump.

Trenton Tigers Addison Allaire (2) during a softball game between Gainesville High School and Trenton High School at Gainesville High School in Gainesville, FL on Thursday, March 7, 2024. [Chris Watkins/Gainesville Sun]

ֱI know the girls are behind me all the time, and they give me 100% effort,ֱ Allaire said. ֱI also think I finally have enough experience just to relax and do what I do.ֱ

Allaire, in three less games than Bourdage, has struck out 164 batters (3rd in 1A) and holds a 0.73 ERA (1st in 1A). Her 11 wins are 5th in the class.

Also, like Bourdage, she rakes at the plate.

Sheֱs bombed seven long balls (3rd in 1A) and drove in 30 runs (12th in 1A).

Her Tigers slayed an arduous schedule. They gained revenge on GHS with a 2-0 win in April and beat Branford, Fort White and Santa Fe, each a contender to go to states.

Trenton, itself, ranks 12th in Florida and is 1Aֱs state title favorite.

ֱEnemies on the field, buddies off itֱ

Trenton Tigers Addison Allaire (2) warms up between innings during a softball game between Gainesville High School and Trenton High School at Gainesville High School in Gainesville, FL on Thursday, March 7, 2024. [Chris Watkins/Gainesville Sun]

Anderson said the two spent an hour talking before their first game vs each other.

ֱThat's how softball is,ֱ Anderson said ֱThey're their enemies on the field, but when they're off, they're good buddies.ֱ

Bourdage and Allaire have been friends for years through the travel ball circuit.

Allaire admitted that first start against Bourdage felt odd.

ֱWe haven't played against each other since we were 10, so it's definitely a little weird to play against her, but it's also fun at the same time,ֱ Allaire said.

Both pitchers echoed how proud they are of each other.

ֱSheֱs one of my absolute best friends,ֱ Allaire said. ֱI love her to death.ֱ

Luckily for both, they can cheer each other on throughout the postseason.

No. 4 seed GHS opens postseason play in the 5A-Region 1 Quarterfinals vs Deltona Thursday at 7 p.m. Top-seed Trenton, meanwhile, hosts No. 4 seed Newberry Thursday in the 1A-Region 4 Semifinals.

With Florida coach Tim Walton scouting both players in their first matchup, who knows? Maybe Florida fans will see both at Katie Seashole Pressly Stadium in a few short years.

Noah Ram covers Gainesville-area high school sports and University of Florida athletics for The Gainesville Sun. Contact him atֱNram@gannett.comֱand follow himֱֱon Twitter.