Makenna Segal doesn't get many chances to swing the bat.
So when Duluth elected to pitch to the South Forsyth slugger, she didn't hesitate.
Segal pounced on the first pitch she saw, pulverizing a three-run home run over the left-field fence to give South a 4-1 lead in the first inning of Tuesday's first-round playoff game. The War Eagles won 16-4, then routed the Wildcats 14-0 in Game 2 to advance to the Sweet 16.
"I was just thinking, I don't get very many opportunities to get pitched to, so when I do I try my very best to make the most of it," Segal said. "But I also know to stay within myself and know that even if I just get a single, it helps the team."
Duluth walked Segal her next time up, but she came around to score after Katie Jenkins' bases-loaded double plated Segal, Ruthie Allen and Chloe Traynor.
Segal (2 for 2) and Jenkins (3 for 4) each drove in four runs for the War Eagles in Game 1, with Segal scoring four runs. Segal added another home run in the second game, finishing 3 for 3 with and RBI and scoring three more runs.
Audrey Hui finished 6 for 6 with four RBIs and three runs scored, picking up three hits in each game.
Josie Crossman earned the win in Game 1, allowing four runs — two earned — on three hits over four innings pitched. Hannah Marchman followed that up with three-hit gem in Game 2, striking out six batters and keeping the Wildcats off the board.
South made a couple of uncharacteristic errors early in Game 1, leading to a pair of Duluth runs.
With the War Eagles set to face second-ranked North Gwinnett in the second round of the playoffs, head coach Leanne Brooks knows her defense has to be sharper.
"North Gwinnett I believe is playing Milton, and so either one of those that come out of it, we're not going to be able to make the mistakes that we made today," Brooks said. "So, as long as we can take care of the ball, I think that we have a shot."
North Gwinnett, which finished second behind Mountain View in Region 7-7A, beat Milton 8-0 and 14-3 on Tuesday.
South faced North Gwinnett earlier this month and lost 12-1, but Brooks did her best not to show her hand. North Gwinnett scored 11 runs in the first inning off Riley Carr, but managed only one unearned run off Crossman in 3 1/3 innings.
"On our side, we didn't throw everything out there that we had," Brooks said. "It wasn't our starting nine that faced them, and I was honestly happy that we didn't play them the second time, knowing that we could possibly match up with them in the second round because it was just less that they were able to see."
Not many teams can lose five players to injury and still win a region championship, much less coast into the second round of the Class 7A playoffs.
And yet, the War Eagles have overcome injuries to Kennedy Ariail, Ellie Balose, Karly Casey, Sarah Quian and Emme Souter this season.
"I love this team more than anything," Segal said. "It has been very tough this year to replace as the season went on with injuries, but I think everyone stepped up when their number was called and just did it for the team. That's all you can ask, and I'm very proud of them. Even with me having to switch positions from short to third, your number's called and you do what you can for the team.
"We've all known each other for so long, so we have great chemistry. Even off the field, I would gladly spend a weekend with these girls, and I think the team chemistry really relates onto the field and how we play. You can see it in the dugout. We just have fun. This is such a fun group of girls and we know when we have fun we play better."