It started innocuously for North Forsyth: a mishandled ground ball allowed South Forsyth right fielder Maddie Clawson to reach base to lead off the second inning, and Taylor Lutian bunted Clawson to second.
By the time the Lady Raiders retired two more South hitters, the Lady War Eagles had scored five runs on five hits and three North errors as South finished off the Lady Raiders, 8-0, in six innings in Coal Mountain on Tuesday.
“It was nice to put pressure on them early,” South coach Ronnie Davis said. “That second inning started with an error, and sometimes you just get behind the eight ball when that happens and things roll downhill.”
The Lady War Eagles (18-4-1, 14-2 Region 6-AAAAAA) had to win to keep pace with Lambert, which moved to 15-1 in region play with an 8-1 win over Johns Creek earlier Thursday evening. Lambert can clinch a Region 6 championship with one win in their final two games by virtue of holding the tiebreaker over South.
“We have to take care of our end of it and we can’t put more pressure on ourselves if we come in saying, ‘Hey, we’ve got to win this one,’” Davis said. “I try not to have our kids look at any game differently, whether it’s a region game or non-region, county or not.”
South pitcher Katherine Huey, who committed to play for Purdue earlier this week, breezed through five shutout innings, striking out six and allowing just two hits. The Lady Raiders (8-15, 7-9) took 2 2/3 innings to record a hit — Angelina Coleman stroked a triple to deep right — and Huey retired North in order in three of five innings.
“It all starts on the mound,” Davis said. “We got great pitching tonight. We did a very good job of pitching inside, pitching outside and got a bunch of weak ground balls to the right side. That’s part of [Katherine] learning how to pitch — not trying to strike everybody out and keeping her pitch count down. Very impressed with the way she pitched.”
The Lady War Eagles plated their first run without hitting a ball out of the infield. After Clawson moved to third on a wild pitch with one out, Jordyn Harris (4-4, R, RBI) bounced a high chopper 20 feet down the third base line and beat the throw to first before Amy Kilmer loaded the bases with a bunt single.
North first baseman Amber Jones dove to stop Sofia Tapia’s shot down the line and threw home to force out Clawson, but North catcher Breena Gwaltney threw to third to a late-arriving infielder as Harris tried to advance. The ball bounced in to left field, and Harris scampered home for the Lady War Eagles’ first run.
Stephanie Harris (2-3, 2 R, 2 RBI, BB, SB) extended the South lead to 3-0 one batter later with a two-run single to center; after her sister, Emily (2-4, R, SB), singled, the pair executed a perfect double-steal and Stephanie scored on another botched North throw to third. Huey (2-3, R, RBI, BB, SB) added a fifth run with a single to center.
South added three runs in the sixth. The Lady War Eagles scored eight runs without recording an extra-base hit.
“We haven’t swung it that great lately, but we put balls in play and didn’t strike out a lot, and good things happened for us,” Davis said.
Kara Bilodeau replaced Huey on the mound in the sixth. She struck out the side and stranded North runners at second and third to end the game.
If South ends up with the No. 2 seed out of Region 6, they will face the No. 3 seed out of Region 5-AAAAAA in the first round of the state playoffs.
Pope and Lassiter appear locked in to the first two seeds, meaning the Lady War Eagles will see Etowah (11-12 overall), Cherokee (18-9) or Woodstock (11-11), Cherokee being the most likely. Davis and the South coaching staff hope to make a scouting trip this weekend or early next week to see what they’re up against.