Game 3 (Best of 3)
Brookwood 0 0 1 0 1 0 0 — 2
So. Forsyth 0 0 1 0 0 0 0 — 1
Amanda Ablan: 7 IP, 1 H, 1 R, 3 BB, 9 K
Kayla Louie: 1-3, R
Grace McMurray: 0-2, R
Kamryn Tillman: 1-3
Katherine Huey: 7 IP, 3 H, 2 R (0 ER), 0 BB, 1 K
Stephanie Harris: 1-4, 3B, RBI
Sofia Tapia: 0-2, R, BB, SB
SNELLVILLE — In a state playoff softball game, the difference can be a few inches, a few feet, a split-second. Contact an inch closer to the bat’s sweet spot, a ground ball hit a few feet further right or left, a runner a few tenths of a second faster or slower.
For Brookwood, it was a perfect confluence of time and space — with plenty of help from the two-man umpire crew — that pushed the Lady Broncos in to the Elite 8 of the Class AAAAAA state playoffs with a 2-1 win over South Forsyth on Thursday night.
With one out in the fifth inning, Brookwood left fielder Grace McMurray reached on a South error. The next batter, Tori Gunn, pushed a soft ground ball straight to South second baseman Jordyn Harris; just as Harris was about to field cleanly, McMurray clipped the freshman infielder, knocking her to the ground.
McMurray should have been called out for runner’s interference, but the second base umpire let play continue and the Lady Broncos were in business at first and third. Kayla Louie then shot a ground ball to shortstop Emily Harris, who looked McMurray back and threw to first for the second out, but McMurray took off after the throw and scored what would be the game-winning run.
South coach Ronnie Davis said the field umpire told him that the runner did not make contact with Jordyn Harris.
“I stated my case, but at that time of the game, if I don’t stay calm in an adverse situation like I tell my girls to, then I’m not leading by example,” Davis said. “I said my piece, and they weren’t going to change it … it’s a judgment call that’s very very hard to get overturned because there’s pride involved.”
The Lady War Eagles did not help their own cause by committing five errors. Brookwood totaled just three hits and pitcher Katherine Huey (7 IP, 3 H, 2 R (0 ER), 1 K) did not walk a batter; both Lady Bronco runs were unearned.
“You can’t expect to win this time of year when you make five errors,” Davis said. “We didn’t execute fundamentals, they did.”
South, loaded with sophomores, had never made it past the first round in the state playoffs under its current format until this year. Brookwood, on the other hand, reached the Elite 8 in Columbus last year and finished fourth in Class AAAAAA.
“These are big moments,” Brookwood coach Jennifer Maloney said. “You just have to remember, these are teenagers. Sometimes, it can just be bigger than they are, and that’s OK. For the first time they’ve been to this round, that’s a great showing.”
Brookwood got on the board first when Louie singled on the infield and advanced all the way to third as an errant throw-and-catch trickled past first base and down the right field line. Louie then scored on Danna Downs’ groundout.
South answered in the bottom of that third inning. Sofia Tapia walked, stole second, and Stephanie Harris yanked a neck-high, 1-2 fastball from junior Amanda Ablan (WP, 7 IP, 1 H, 1 R, 3 BB, 9 K) in to the right-field corner for a triple — the Lady War Eagles’ lone hit — that plated Tapia.
Harris stood on third with just one out, but Ablan, using a riseball that had South hitters standing in the front of the box to have a chance at making contact with it, got a big strikeout and a pop out to leave her stranded.
“Amanda is just so competitive,” Maloney said. “She wants the ball; that’s where she wants to be. She says she wants it, you give it to her.”
The sophomore Huey, to her credit, went toe-to-toe with Ablan. The Purdue commit recorded 13 of her 21 outs via ground ball and induced five other ground balls that could have been outs.
Talk about a study in contrast: Ablan striking out nine, Huey striking out one; Ablan walking three and going to multiple three-ball counts, Huey walking none. Brookwood made solid contact on two balls hit to the outfield, but right fielder Maddie Clawson reeled in a nice running catch down the right field line and Sarah Nelms caught Kamryn Tillman’s drive on the warning track in left-center.
“She was hitting spots so that they couldn’t get great contact,” Davis said. “On those two balls, the [Brookwood] girls caught it off the end of the bat and couldn’t drive it. I can’t say enough about her performance, but I think she’d trade that for a win any day. She held her own and she grew up a lot … I saw this group of 14-to-17-year-old girls come a long way, which is not something that can be said all the time.”
Maloney, in her first season as head coach at Brookwood after serving as an assistant at Mill Creek since 2007, heads to Columbus looking for her first state title as a head coach. Mill Creek won a state championship in 2008 with Maloney’s help.
“You really cannot predict what’s going to happen in Columbus,” Maloney said. “They’re going to be like the three games here, except magnified. You’ve just got to take things as they come, which is what we mentally and physically prepare for all year.”
The Lady Broncos will be glad to be done with South this year — and Maloney doesn’t want to see Davis, a friend, back on the diamond any time soon.
“They’re a young, talented group,” Maloney said. “I told Ronnie earlier, I wouldn’t want to play you next year.”