“Annabelle came through with our clutch catch ... and we all took a deep breath. It was a nail-biter, but we squeaked it out.”

Eighth grader Ava Smith struck out 14 to set the Destin Marlins on the path to a 3-2 win over the visiting Bruner Spartan in middle school softball action Wednesday afternoon.


"Ava crushed it on the mound,“ said Destin Coach Kati O’Brian.


“So defensively that was the highlight of the game,” she added, noting the defense really didn’t have to do a whole lot.


However, late in the game sixth grader Annabelle Shackelford made what coach called a “hallelujah” catch in right field.


The Lady Marlins had a 3-2 lead, but in the top of the fifth they threatened with the two runners on base. Bruner’s No. 4 hitter took it deep to right, but Shackelford snagged it to keep the Marlins lead.


“Annabelle came through with our clutch catch ... and we all took a deep breath,” O’Brian said. “It was a nail-biter, but we squeaked it out.”


For the girls’ season opener, “I think it was overall good,” she added.


The Marlins have six new players on the team this year with some playing in unfamiliar positions.


“We’re kind of working out our chemistry and how we need to interact together,” she said.


And on Thursday they got a chance to work some of that out first hand.


Bruner got on the board first in the top of the first inning.


It wasn’t until the third inning that Destin emerged ahead. Destin put together five hits and three runs. Hannah Isham, MJ Toth, Izzy Douglas, Smith and Blakely York each singled.


In the top of the fourth, Bruner got one run back.


In Destin’s last three turns at bat, the Marlins connected for a couple of hits but no runs.


Smith sat the Spartans down in the top of the seventh on three consecutive strikeouts to secure the win.


For the game, Isham and Toth each had two hits for the Marlins.


Up next for Destin is a 4 p.m. game Monday at home against the Davidson Panthers of Crestveiw.