S. Forsyth 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 — 0
Brookwood 1 0 0 0 0 0 X — 1
Katherine Huey: 6 IP, 5 H, 1 R, 1 K
Sofia Tapia: 1-3, 2B
Emily Harris: 1-3
Amy Kilmer: 1-3
Amanda Ablan: 7 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 13 K
Ablan: 3-3, RBI
Brookwood 0 0 1 0 0 1 0 — 2
S. Forsyth 0 1 1 0 1 0 X — 3
Ablan: 6 IP, 3 H, 3 R, 0 BB, 9 K
Kamryn Tillman: 2-3, 2B, RBI
Hannah Mason: 1-3, 2B, R
Kara Bilodeau: 3 2/3 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 3 BB, 8 K
Huey: 3 1/3 IP, 2 H, R, 3 K
Emily Harris: 1-2, HR, RBI
Jordyn Harris: 1-2, 2B, RBI
Tapia: 1-2, R, SB
Game 3: Thursday, 6:00 p.m., at Brookwood High School in Snellville.
Softball players are a superstitious lot, so you’d better believe that South Forsyth planned to occupy the same seats for the bus ride home to Cumming from Snellville on Wednesday night.
And you’d better believe that the Lady War Eagles will sit in the same places — uniforms might even go unwashed — as South travels back to Brookwood on Thursday for a deciding Game 3 (6 p.m.) with a berth in the Elite 8 in Columbus at stake. Brookwood took Game 1, 1-0, before South clung to a 3-2 win in Game 2 to earn a split.
Brookwood junior pitcher Amanda Ablan shut No. 10 South down in Game 1, working seven scoreless innings and striking out 13, and drove in the game’s only run with a first-inning single to lead the third-ranked Lady Broncos to a 1-0 win.
Kara Bilodeau started Game 2 for the Lady War Eagles and worked in and out of trouble, leaving the bases loaded in the first and runners on second and third base in the third inning. Bilodeau (WP, 3 2/3 IP, 4 H, 3 BB, 8 K) held the Lady Broncos to one run before giving way to Katherine Huey, who worked the final 3 1/3 innings, allowing a run on two hits, as South took Game 2, 3-2.
“Our backs were up against the wall,” South coach Ronnie Davis said. “After Game 1, our girls maybe wanted to hang their heads a little bit, but I told them, ‘you’ve worked too hard to give in when you’ve gotten this far, and we’ve got another game to play right here.’”
Jordyn Harris scored Amy Kilmer with a double in the second inning of Game 2 after Ablan (6 IP, 3 H, 3 R, 9 K in Game 2) hit Kilmer with a pitch. Emily Harris hit a solo home run to right-center in the third and celebrated so jubilantly that she had to go back to touch second base. Sofia Tapia added the final run in the fifth when she singled, stole second and scored from there when Brookwood made an errant throw to first on Emily Harris’ bunt.
The way Ablan pitched in Game 1, it would have been understandable for the Lady War Eagles to feel discouraged. Ablan, committed to play at the University of Georgia and the Gwinnett Daily Post’s 2013 county pitcher of the year, struck out five of the first six hitters she retired and seven of the first nine and struck out the side in order twice.
“We were overmatched in our first round series last year,” Davis said. “The group this year, we know we can play with anybody. The game hasn’t changed, it’s just that, as you get to this point in the season, the competition steps up and people take advantage of mistakes.”
Bilodeau notched two of the biggest outs of the Lady War Eagles’ season in the first inning of Game 2. Brookwood loaded the bases on two walks and an error, but Bilodeau struck out Chelsea Twardoski and Hannah Mason. In the third, Brookwood’s Kamryn Tillman scored Danna Downs with a double that struck halfway up the maroon-and-gold fence in left-center; the Lady Broncos had runners on second and third, but Bilodeau again struck out Twardoski and got Mason to ground out to end the threat.
Davis started to give Bilodeau more opportunities in the circle as South worked through its 18-game Region 6-AAAAAA schedule, partially to rest Huey and partially to get Bilodeau ready to pitch in big games if necessary. The sophomore did what the Lady War Eagles needed and left with a lead in Game 2.
“That first inning in Game 2 was huge, just to let the smoke from Game 1 settle a bit,” Davis said. “[Brookwood] had an opportunity to put a damper on our night early but Bilodeau came up with some great pitches when she had to … At times early [in the season] she struggled with control and did again tonight, but she stayed composed the whole time.”
Huey took over for Bilodeau with two outs and two Lady Broncos on base in the fourth, but the Lady War Eagles' ace struck out Downs to escape and set the tone. The sophomore pitcher started a 1-6-3 double play in the fifth to erase Tillman’s leadoff single.
“Huey is Huey,” Davis said. “She’s going to compete and she’s going to find a way to get it done.”
That was plain to see in the seventh with South nursing a 3-2 lead and needing three outs to force Game 3. Brookwood leadoff hitter Kayla Louie started the inning with a walk and stole second. Huey struck out Downs; Tillman roped a line drive straight to center fielder Stephanie Harris for the second out, and Ablan grounded out to third base.
“Both us and Brookwood had chances to get more runs, but strikeouts, good defensive plays kept it close,” Davis said. “That’s what you expect this time of year … we could have given in multiple times tonight.”
Huey was a hard-luck loser in Game 1 (6 IP, 5 H, 1 R), though she did get help from her defense to keep the Lady Broncos at just one run. In the sixth, Brookwood put runners at first and second with no outs. Chelsea Twardoski pushed a line drive bunt to the first baseman Bilodeau, who caught it, stepped on first to double off Ablan and alertly threw behind the runner at second for a triple play.
South’s best scoring chance in Game 1 didn’t come until the seventh inning, when Maddie Clawson and Kilmer singled back-to-back and Jordyn Harris bunted them to second and third with two outs. Ablan started Tapia with a ball but fought back and got the South catcher to wave at a nasty breaking ball for strike three and a 1-0 series lead.
With a night’s rest, it will likely be Ablan, the Georgia commit, against Huey, the Purdue commit, at 6 p.m. on Thursday in Snellville. The winner heads to Columbus for the double-elimination Elite 8.
If South can beat Ablan for a second time in as many days, the Lady War Eagles won’t be switching from their blue-shirt, dark-gray-pant uniform combination any time soon.