Florence’s Johnson cuts through Ben Franklin lineup

8 months ago Jason P. Skoda 0

Two hours before Florence arrived at Benjamin Franklin for a 3A Central Region softball game Thursday, the dust storm rolling through Queen Creek made visibility beyond a few feet difficult.

Once it settled down, the Chargers had another issue and she stood 43 feet away.

Florence junior right-hander Dani Johnson brought some of her best stuff of the season as she limited Benjamin Franklin to five hits in a complete-game 12-2 six-inning victory for Florence.

She had seven strikeouts and no walks against the Chargers, who came into the game with a team batting average hovering around .350.

Alixis Padilla takes a cut at a pitch in Thursday’s win over Benjamin Franklin.

“She was strong today,” Florence coach Dominic Rice said. “She’s had to step into the No. 1 spot because Jaycee Johnson missed the start of the season. Dani has really stepped in and pitched good most of the season. She has been dealing with some illness so for her to step up like she did for today’s game was awesome.”

Dani was mostly a defensive replacement last year as a sophomore so taking on a vital role to start was a big jump in her role for the Gophers (11-13, 5-3).

“We got an early lead so I was able to pitch to my spots,” she said. “The wind was blowing so I did the best I could. I do the best I can. I think I’ve done my job and I will pitch as much as they want me to.”

Benjamin Franklin’s Liana Ellis fouls off a pitch in a 12-2 loss to Florence.

The Florence offense struck early and didn’t really let up against Benjamin Franklin’s Liana Ellis, who went the distance while allowing 12 hits, eight earned runs, seven strikeouts, and three walks.

Freshman Alixis Padilla had three hits, three runs and an RBI, while Jaycee Johnson had three hits, including her seventh home run, and three RBIs. Sophomore Ana Arbizo had two hits and a RBI.

“I have to get on them sometimes, but the offense is pretty strong,” Jaycee said. “When we stay focused and put together good at bats we can get to most pitchers.”

Ben Franklin (6-9, 1-5) has a mix of experienced players and players taking the field for the first time this season. It creates some inconsistences, but it was clear the Chargers, who got a two-hit game from Kendal Holland, never gave into the deficit and kept playing hard and nearly extended the game to a seventh inning with a late rally in the sixth.

“The energy these girls bring now matter what the situation is what impresses me,” second-year coach Jon Malgradi said. “They are always ready to go and playing hard. We have mostly freshman and sophomores out her and they are competing every time out.”