Courtney Sauer will remember Sept. 23, 2021 for a long, long time.
The day began in Nashville, Tennessee, where Sauer committed to play collegiate softball at Lipscomb University, and it ended at Lambert High School, where Sauer's complete-game shutout capped the Longhorns' doubleheader sweep of Denmark.
Between those two events was a four-hour drive back to Georgia, a couple of hits at the plate, and one unforgettable day for Lambert's standout junior.
"It's been really exciting," Sauer said. "I came in really excited, so I was a little worried, but then I came out and pitched really good so it was exciting. It was just overall a good day."
Lambert topped Denmark 5-4 in Game 1 and beat the Danes 5-0 in Game 2.
Sauer earned the start in the circle in nightcap, and it couldn't have started much better. She held the Danes hitless through the first five innings, before Jordan Williams beat out an infield single in the sixth inning to break up the no-hitter.
The only baserunners until that point came on a dropped third strike in the second inning and a walk in the fourth inning.
After Sara Harris struck out swinging and beat the throw from catcher Sydney Chung, Sauer struck out Kiersten Bell looking, then fielded Ellery Campbell's comebacker and threw to first to retire the side.
In the fourth inning, Sauer managed to work around a one-out walk to Jessie DeNardo thanks to some stellar defense from shortstop Katelyn Boyette. With DeNardo on first and Taylor Gajdik batting, Boyette inched toward second prior to the pitch, only to retract seconds later after Gajdik bounced a ground ball to her right. Boyette hustled to reach the ball, backhanded it and fired to first in time to get Gajdik.
On the next pitch, Sauer forced Harris into a groundout to end the inning.
"When you're a groundball pitcher, you've got to trust your defense, and I think now Courtney's starting to trust that the defense is going to make the plays," Lambert head coach Brooks Youngblood said. "I think we've kind of settled into the who's going to be where when Courtney's pitching and who's going to be where when Hannah [Cole] is pitching. It's almost like the infield gets a game off when Hannah's pitching and the outfield gets a game off when Courtney's pitching."
Sauer racked up nine strikeouts and induced eight groundouts.
Sauer's screwball had plenty of bite and forced the Danes to pound the ball into the ground.
"Last season I didn't have one because I kind of jacked up my elbow with it, but now I'm getting it back and actually spinning it, so it works a lot better," Sauer said. "It has a little drop to it, too, so it works out."
At the plate, Sauer had a pair of triples — both standup triples — driving in a run and scoring another.
Cole earned the win in the circle in Game 1. She pitched a complete game and struck out eight batters, surrendering four runs on seven hits.
Denmark struck first on a solo home run from DeNardo, but Boyette singled home Emma Harwood and Maddie Todd demolished a two-run homer to give the Longhorns a 3-1 lead. Ashley Fitts had an RBI single in the third, then Cole helped her own cause when her double plated Sauer.
Lambert held a three-run lead heading into the seventh, but Gajdik led off the inning with a single and took second on an error before Bell singled her home. Mary Kate Leonard's single to center scored Bell and made it 5-4 with one out.
But Cole struck out Riley Bord and got Williams to line out to Cowart to end the game.
"Everybody sees Hannah Cole and they see the strikeouts. I think the difference between the two — how Hannah's the rise ball up, or screw ball coming in and up, or the curveball going in and out and up. She gets pop flies and strikeouts. Then Courtney comes in, and in a doubleheader it's like magic, because they're seeing the speed and then Courtney comes in and it just dives on everything. By the time they adjust, sometimes it's too late."
Gajdik led the Danes at the plate in Game 1, going 3-for-3. She also started in the circle in Game 2, pitching six innings and giving up five runs — two earned — on five hits.
Denmark [11-9, 6-6 Region 6-7A] remains in the playoff hunt and will host North Forsyth at 1 p.m. Saturday.
Lambert [15-4, 9-2 Region 6-7A], meanwhile, has won 12 straight games since Aug. 24 and will face Northside-Columbus and Dacula on Saturday before resuming region play Tuesday with a doubleheader at West Forsyth.
"We're all really excited and we're trying not to get too high up and too down on ourselves," Sauer said. "[We're] just staying consistent, continuing to hit the ball and not just try to hit it out of the park — just nice base hits and get around the bases and play defense. Our defense has gotten so good since the beginning of the season."