SUWANEE — Lambert had no plans of being swept.
When it looked like the No. 4 seed Lady Longhorns’ season might be over after losing 8-0 in the first game of the evening to No. 1 seed North Gwinnett, they strung together three runs in the sixth inning to break a 4-4 tie and defeat North 7-5 in the second game at the Bulldogs’ field on Wednesday in the Class 6-AAAAAA state playoffs to force a decisive Game 3.
Lambert’s patience at the plate paid off, as North pitchers Hannah Harrison and Kinsley Jennings allowed just three hits, but walked 12 batters in the second game, giving the Lady Longhorns (23-9) all the help they needed.
With two outs and runners on second and third, Lambert’s Megan Whitlatch hit a pop-up that the second baseman couldn’t handle, and the error resulted in two more runs for the Lady Longhorns. Savannah Huffstetler added another run with an RBI single that scored Whitlatch to give Lambert a 7-4 lead.
"It was all or nothing," Lambert head coach Dana Corr said. "It was going to be the end of our season. The girls worked really hard and never gave up. The first loss just really motivated them.
"They played great defense and Megan Walz pitched a phenomenal game for us and the sticks came through."
The Longhorns started the first inning with a two-run home run from Macy Stovall to take an early 2-0 lead, but the Lady Bulldogs responded in the third inning with a three-run home run from Mallory Koepke to go ahead 3-2.
North (21-7-2) tacked on another run in the top of the fifth inning when Kendall McKinney found a gap in the outfield for an RBI single.
Things fell apart for the Lady Bulldogs in the bottom half of the frame, as Harrison (5+ IP, 2 H, 8 K, 10 BB, 4 ER) walked two consecutive batters before giving up a single to load the bases. Courtney Ross took advantage of the situation, as she drew a full count before a pitch outside walked in a run. Rachel Ross finished the scoring when she drew a walk for another run, tying the score at four apiece.
The Lady Bulldogs tried a comeback in the seventh inning when Amanda Shimmin hit a solo home run off Walz (6+ IP, 8 H, 2 K, 1 BB, 5 ER) before Kassie Howard struck out three consecutive batters to save the game, making the final score 7-5.
"The girls didn’t press today and were not overanxious [at the plate]," Corr said. "They were relaxed; they were having fun and played Lambert softball in the second game."
The first game wasn’t Lambert softball.
The Lady Bulldogs scored four runs in the fourth inning and a walk-off solo home run in the fifth put an exclamation mark on the first game, as North Gwinnett won a mercy-ruled shortened game 8-0.
Howard (4+ IP, 6 H, 2 K, 6 BB, 6 ER) couldn’t find her groove in the circle, as all but one North player reached base at least once.