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Powers strikes out 13, Berkeley bats hot in Orlando sweep

Berkeley Prep 1B Kaia Cortes high-fives Holland Poe after scoring a run in Saturday's win over The First Academy (Orlando).

ORLANDO – Since 2021, Berkeley Prep is 10-0 against Orlando area competition.


The Buccaneers have been known to take these overnight trips to go see some different competition. It helps considering that several of the opponents they’ve scheduled over the years sit in Class 3A and are good measuring stick games to see how they stack up. The trip(s) always come early in the year, to double as an early-season bonding experience.


“We’re going about two hours away from home,” said junior pitcher Avery Powers. “We come into their house, and we want to crush them. We’ve also got our rooms together, so it’s a huge bonding moment for us.”


Berkeley Prep finished a sweep of its annual Orlando trip with a 6-0 victory over The First Academy (Orlando) on Saturday morning.


“We did two back-to-back this year – down to Sarasota and here – we have a couple of young ones and we wanted to jump-start our togetherness. Coming out here, they’re always on a mission,” Buccaneers head coach Dayna Crawford said.


That was awfully evident.


The Buccaneers loaded the bases in the first and got a huge gift to score the opening runs of the game when Paige Quinn’s line drive tipped off the Royals’ right fielder’s glove and kept heading toward the fence. What would’ve been the third out of the inning turned into three runs. Berkeley never looked back from there.


“They look at this trip like a momentum opportunity,” Crawford said. “The focus I see them come in with into these overnights – it’s different.”


Meanwhile, Powers looks like a completely different pitcher. Well, different from her sophomore self. The junior looks much more like the ace who struck out 190 as a freshman. In what she calls a “sophomore slump,” Powers battled a lingering injury that took its toll. Saturday, she looked dominant, taking a perfect game bid into the fourth and a no-hit bid into the fifth.


“That girl lived at the field every day,” Crawford said. “Every day, she has a nine-screen by herself and the work she’s put in is paying off. She fought for this team to do this. And now, the offense has gotten behind her.”


Powers said that’s been an important piece of the puzzle – the ability to pitch looser because she knows she’s going to get an ample amount of run support. After 23 runs crossed over the weekend, the Bucs have struck for 67 runs, nearly ten a game. Crawford called it a “perfect marriage” of their proficiency at the plate and Powers’ work to get back to where she needed to be for her team.


With Powers nearly unhittable, Berkeley’s offense struck for a pair in the third. Notre Dame signee Kaia Cortes doubled to the right field corner to start the inning, then the Bucs loaded the bases for the second time in three frames. Emerson Combs hit an RBI single that died in front of first before eighth grader Claire Patchen hit a sacrifice fly to left that made it 5-0.


Gracie Murphy, who finished with Cortes at two hits each, finished the scoring with an opposite-field RBI single to right in the fourth.


“Our main goal right now is to get base hits. We have the big power hitters on our team, but right now it’s all about being selfless and trying to get those runs in,” Powers said.


Passing the bat has been key with this group in the early going.


“I think our lefty-lefty-lefty leadoff is a challenge for pitchers, especially when they’re all very different and Ella Malin is so versatile,” Crawford said. “Her in the leadoff spot and with Holland and Kaia right behind her, then Gracie Murphy just consistently with runners in scoring position is able to hit the ball to the right side or up the middle. But the lefty-lefty-lefty that’s consistently getting on in the first few innings jumpstarts things for us. We’ve gotten rid of any sort of selfish mentality.”


Berkeley Prep banged out nine total hits and the first five batters in its lineup crossed home at least once. Powers needed only 85 pitches to finish her complete game gem, and through 35 innings, she’s six strikeouts away from tying her total from a year ago (66), which she needed over 80 innings to get to as a sophomore.


The Bucs finish a three-game road trip with a battle at Osceola on Tuesday night before returning home to face Palm Harbor University on Thursday.


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