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George Jenkins shuts out Auburndale, off to best start in six years

LAKELAND – Jazlyn Duque threw her second complete game shutout in as many nights to secure George Jenkins’ best start since 2019, as the Eagles stayed unbeaten after a 3-0 victory over visiting Auburndale on Wednesday night.


It was the second consecutive night that the sophomore needed less than 100 pitches to polish off her gem of a performance. Duque threw 64 of her 98 offerings for strikes and struck out six Bloodhounds in the victory.


“It feels great,” she said. “My first game, it was stressful, very nervous, very tight game, I didn’t pitch the best that I could’ve. These last two games, I’ve definitely improved.”


Duque needed 85 pitches just to get through five innings in a high-scoring opener with Ft. Meade. Since, she’s been rock solid to throw 14 consecutive zeroes on the scoreboard against defending Class 4A State Champion Lake Wales on Tuesday before besting the ‘Hounds 24 hours later.


“She brings the energy every time. I’m not going to lie, she’s nervous before each game, but she brings the energy. An all-around player, anywhere on the field, she makes a big difference. I started to see that last year,” George Jenkins head coach Chris Shell said.


Fresh off a nod to the Week 1 Pitching Honor Roll, Auburndale starter Jordan Honeycutt was equally as strong as Duque through the first three innings. Each allowed two baserunners – Duque was able to get aboard in her first two at-bats on a single and a walk, while Hailey Bradley’s two-out single in the first didn’t hurt Jenkins, which made things happen in the fourth.


Senior third baseman Payton Spears turned a leadoff hit by pitch into a run. One pitch after she stole second, Kamryn Wallisa hit a groundball through the middle and Spears beat a tag at home to give the Eagles a 1-0 lead. It was the second straight night that the freshman came up big – she hit a three-run homer that got her side out and running in the win at Lake Wales.


“Her being on the team has impacted us a lot this year, in the field and at the plate,” Duque said.


A suicide squeeze from Isabella Leceese scored a second run in the inning.

Auburndale looked to rally in the sixth on consecutive singles from Alyssa Wright and Bradley to lead off the inning. A fielder’s choice got the first out, then on a potential run-scoring single, Olivia Newman came up with what Shell called the ‘game-saving’ throw from center to keep Bradley from scoring.


“That throw – all I was thinking was, ‘do I cut this, or do I not cut this?’ I see the girl running and rounding and I realized that throw was going straight through, even if she doesn’t get her, it’s going straight through,” Duque said. “I let it go and it turned out great.”


Duque got a strikeout to end the threat and the Eagles’ lineup rewarded the defensive effort with a run in the sixth. Audrey Gideon and Lecesse hit one-out singles before the third out of the inning dropped out of the sky to the clay, hitting a glove in-between that allowed the runners to safely advance and an insurance run to cross.


The Eagles cleaned up in the seventh to work around a one-out single before capping off an impressive two-game swing to stay unbeaten.


“Everybody’s watching,” said Shell, who took over the program in 2021. “That was big. It gives the girls confidence, the coaching staff confidence, hopefully, we can keep on rolling.”


Even though she took the loss, Honeycutt ultimately turned in a solid performance in a true duel. She struck out nine and was tagged with two earned runs. Bradley had two hits for Auburndale, which fell to 2-1 ahead of the second game of a back-to-back when they host Lake Region on Thursday. George Jenkins will put its undefeated record on the line once more when it travels to Frostproof to finish a slate of three straight games.


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