McKayla Cothran finished Thursday's game against Forsyth Central 1 for 4, but that one hit made all the difference.
When Cothran came to the plate in the bottom of the seventh, with the game tied 3-3, she had already struck out twice and grounded out to second base.
None of that mattered.
Cothran expected Central pitcher Bailey McCachren to pitch her inside, and when she did, Cothran smacked the ball down the right-field line, scoring Lauren Fields from second and lifting the Raiders past Central in heroic fashion, 4-3.
“I was really mad at myself, but I just trusted my teammates to pick me up the whole game," Cothran said. "That last at-bat, Coach Pilar (Harden) just told me that I was going to come up to a really big situation, and I did. I just let God handle it and tried to let all my energy just come out right there. I took it out on the ball, and I couldn’t have done it without my team.”
Fields led off the frame with a single, then beat Emily Caron's throw to second base on an Adaline Nix fielder's choice to put a pair of runners on base for Ashleigh Grace. But Grace lined out to center, despite squaring up the ball, setting the table for Cothran's hit.
“We have confidence in all of our girls," North coach Jim Cahill said. "We always talk about, ‘So what? Next at-bat’ and ‘So what? Next pitch.’ It doesn’t matter what you did before. They’re like bricks. If you have a negative at-bat and you carry that with you, it just piles up like bricks and you’re never going to get out of that funk. She did a really good job of putting everything behind her, turning on that pitch and winning the game for us.”
Hailey Mize earned the win for the Raiders (12-2, 3-1 Region 5-7A), who vaulted into first place and now own the tiebreaker over Central.
Mize tossed seven innings, giving up three earned runs on nine hits and striking out four. Mize also finished 3 for 3 at the plate, including a pair of doubles and two RBIs.
Ansley Clark led off the game with a single against Mize, then scored on Caraline Bryant's RBI single. North scored three times in the first inning, but three consecutive singles in the top of the third allowed Central to tie the game 3-3.
Bryant led the Bulldogs at the plate, going 3 for 3 with two RBIs. Caron and Clark also chipped in a couple of hits.
Mize buckled down after the third, scattering just three hits over the final four frames.
Central (7-10, 3-1 Region 5-7A) managed to get the leadoff batter aboard in the fourth and sixth innings, but neither runner advanced past second base.
“Honestly, what I went out there and told them was that
North was over there celebrating that they beat us, and that wasn’t the case.
We beat ourselves," Central coach Paul Cromie said. "There are three or four plays where if we make a routine
play, you take two or three runs off the board. They did not beat us; we beat
ourselves today. Plain and simple.”
A first-inning error on right fielder Mattie Smith allowed North to get its first runs of the game as Grace scored from third base before scoring on one of Mize's doubles.
Meanwhile, North played stellar defense.
Mallorie Black, a Georgia Tech commit, saved what would have been the go-ahead run in the sixth inning when she tracked down a lazy Texas leaguer with a runner on second and one out. On the next play, she made a spectacular play up the middle, using her forehand to grab a sharp grounder, then firing to first base to get Kristi Brower by half a step.
“It’s about doing whatever it takes to get the job done, and
we didn’t do it," Cromie said. "We’ve got to swallow it. It’s going to be a tough thing to swallow,
but we’ll get back after it. We’ve got South on Tuesday, and that’s where we
need to focus.”