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Softball: Smith's big hit lifts North over Lambert
Lady Raiders claim first place in Region 6-AAAAAA
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North Forsyth's Jenna Zirlott, left, and Savannah Chapman celebrate after scoring in the third inning against Lambert on Thursday in Suwanee. - photo by Jared Putnam

Brittany Smith stepped back onto first base, clenched her fists and let out a yell. The smallest player on the field had delivered the biggest hit of the night.

Smith’s two-out, bases-loaded single in the fifth inning drove in a pair of go-ahead runs, and North Forsyth held on for a 5-3 victory over Lambert on Thursday at the Longhorns’ field.

The hit complemented another big game from Sydney Turner (2-for-3, 2B, 3 RBI), who supplied the rest of the team’s runs and closed out the game in the circle as the Lady Raiders wrestled fist place in Region 6-AAAAAA away from the Lady Longhorns.

North (11-7, 5-1 Region 6-AAAAAA) has won six of its last seven games, including its last four region contests, after losing six of its first 11 games this season.

"It’s kind of been a roller coaster," North coach Bud Henderson said. 

"We’ve been getting a little more consistent, our big bats are coming alive here and getting good outings, but I tell you what, [Lambert is] a great team and they’ve got a really good pitcher.

"[South Forsyth] pitched around Savannah [Chapman] the other night and [Lambert] pitched around Savannah and Sydney tonight, and we had a big senior, Brittany Smith, step up."

"Big" isn't an entirely accurate description of Smith, who stands just 5-foot-1 and weighs 110 pounds, but she came up with a huge hit for the Lady Raiders against Lambert.

North trailed 3-2 with two outs in the top of the fifth while Andrea Coleman stood on first base courtesy of a one-out single.

Lambert pitcher Kassie Howard (7 IP, 5 R, 4 ER, 8 H, 3 BB, 4 K)  tried to get Chapman and Turner — North’s No. 3 and No. 4 hitters — to chase pitches out of the strike zone, but both drew walks to load the bases.

That set the table for Smith, who slapped a pitch toward the left side of the infield and off the outstretched glove of third baseman Macy Stovall, allowing Coleman and Chapman to score.

Smith said she uses it as motivation when opponents see her as a safer hitter to face.

"[When] the first ball [went] to Sydney I was just like, ‘They’re going to walk her,’" Smith said. "I just got pumped right then.

"When I got the hit it was awesome."

The inning marked North’s second rally of the game.

Lambert (14-3, 5-2) jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the bottom of the first when Megan Whitlach and Macy Stovall delivered back-to-back RBI doubles off Coleman (5+ IP, 3 R, 3 ER, 4 H, 3 BB, HBP, 3 K), who started the game for North.

The Lady Raiders responded in the top of the third, tying the game after Howard retired the first two batters in the inning.

Jenna Zirlott (2-for-4, 2 RS) kept the inning going with a bloop single just inside the left field line and Chapman followed with her own single to left. Turner then ripped a two-run double just inside the left field line to even the score 2-2.

Lambert quickly reclaimed the lead 3-2 in the bottom of the inning on a sacrifice fly by Jenny Barto, but the Lady Longhorns stranded all six of their baserunners from that point forward.

Coleman was consistently able to get the Lady Longhorns to swing at low pitches in her five innings of work.

"She’s a great pitcher and [North is] a great team," Lambert coach Dana Corr said. "Sometimes we get a little bit overanxious and the girls want to do so well that they press a little bit."

North then took its first lead of the night in the fifth thanks to Smith and later added an insurance run in the seventh, as Zirlott blooped another single over third base and advanced to third via and error and a wild pitch before scoring on a single by Turner.

Turner also relieved Coleman and recorded the final six outs in the circle without allowing a baserunner. It was her second big game in the last three days, after driving in four runs in a 9-1 victory against South Forsyth on Tuesday.

"I’m feeling really good at the plate and in the field," Turner said. "Tonight was a really good team effort — we all really put our hearts into it and won as a team."

North and Lambert both return to region play on Tuesday. The Raiders travel to West Forsyth, while the Longhorns head to South.