Lauren Fields was determined to find redemption Wednesday afternoon. She knew exactly where to look for it, too.
South Forsyth snapped North Forsyth's two-year string of region championships last season, taking two of three games from the Raiders and ultimately hoisting the Region 6-7A championship trophy.
But North planted itself in the driver's seat of this year's region race Wednesday, using strong defense and timely hitting to sweep South in a doubleheader, 3-2 and 6-1.
For Fields, beating the War Eagles at South Forsyth High School was especially fulfilling.
"Oct. 1 last year here, I sprained my ankle in the grass. I stepped in a hole," Fields recalled. "It was fun to come back and redeem myself."
Fields finished the day 3-for-7. She collected two hits and scored a pair of runs in Game 2, but her defense at shortstop was particularly impressive.
In the fourth inning of Game 1, she made a nice play on a bad hop to nab Ashley Chu at first base. Fields had seven defensive chances in Game 2 and was tested on back-to-back putouts in the fourth inning.
The first was a groundout by Audrey Hui that allowed Kennedy Ariail to advance to third base. Then, with two outs, Fields knocked down a sharply hit ground ball, then fired to first to retire Ellie Balose and end the threat, allowing the Raiders to retain a one-run lead.
"I like to be a leader wherever I'm at, but last year, I tried to start that," Fields said. "This year, I've tried to be our team captain, pull everyone together and pick someone up when they're down and that sort of thing — take charge on the field."
Fields also accounted for North's only error of the afternoon.
After corralling a Karly Casey ground ball with an impressive backhand, Fields threw the ball past Lexie Durban at first, which allowed Casey to reach base.
But Casey never got past second base, and sure enough, the ball found Fields four batters later. This time, Fields fielded the ball cleanly and fired accurately to Durban at first to record the final out.
"More than half the game is mental, and I tried to not be too hard on myself. But, naturally, you're going to be tough on yourself," Fields said. "So, when I make a mistake, I try my best to put it aside, move on and find a way to make it up for my team. A lot of times we say the ball will find you. It's super common. I'll mess up a play, then the next ball is coming to me and I've got to redeem myself. It's just doing what I can to stay back in it."
That mentality taps into the Raiders' overall team mantra, according to North head coach Jim Cahill.
"We have a saying, 'So what? Next pitch,'" he said. "Like, 'Oh, you missed your spot? It's all right. Next pitch.' Really with anything. Offensively, it's kind of our approach; and defensively, if you make an error, so what? Next pitch."
North scored the first runs of the afternoon in Game 1, when Addison Peck's two-run single plated Alexis Monroe and Ali Jones to give the Raiders a 2-0 lead in the fourth inning.
North added an insurance run in the sixth inning after Jones scored on a wild throw by South pitcher Josie Crossman. Jones opened the frame with an infield single, then reached third after Olivia Tyson's sacrifice bunt and Fields' bunt single. Jones trotted home after Crossman's throw failed to get Fields at first and ricocheted into right field.
That run proved critical after South mounted a late-inning comeback that fell 60 feet shy of tying the game.
Ansley Chiang and Emme Souter hit back-to-back singles in the sixth inning, then came around to score on Karly Casey's two-run double that made it 3-2.
Josie Crossman opened the bottom of the seventh inning with a single, which triggered Cahill's call to relieve Tyson with Durban.
Durban struck out Sarah Quian with an offspeed pitch, then after Taylor Pipkins snared a line drive in center field, Durban fanned Chu to end the game.
Tyson earned the win, pitching six innings of two-run ball, striking out two and walking only one batter.
"Yeah, she's matured," Cahill said. "She just doesn't let things get to her anymore. She would throw ball one, then the next thing you know, it'd be ball four. She does a good job."
Tyson also had a sacrifice fly in Game 2 to account for North's first run. Logan Currie had a sac fly of her own in the fifth inning, then three batters later, Alex Monroe's RBI single plated Taylor Pipkins and made it 3-0.
Currie delivered a three-run, no-doubt home run in the sixth inning to break the game open.
In all, the Raiders pounded 12 hits in Game 2, led by Monroe's 3-for-4 performance and Currie's four RBIs. Bri Deleon was excellent in the nightcap, scattering six hits across seven innings of one-run ball.
North is 11-1 this season, with their only loss coming at the beginning of the season to Central-Carrollton. The doubleheader sweep improves their record to a spotless 4-0 mark.
"It feels amazing," Fields said. "Coach [Travis] Jarrard told us coming into these games, he said, 'Go in there, play our game, don't get too high, don't get too low.' And it's so true, because it's a different team we're playing against, and we had different girls on our team as well. So far this year, if we play how we are and stay level -- not too high and not too low — we can handle any team."