As the innings flew by in the region softball tournament between Hardaway and Shaw on Tuesday, Hardaway junior catcher Lilly Mitchell felt uneasy.
The Lady Hawks hopped on top of Shaw 10-1 in the early goings of Friday’s game, but the Lady Raiders were rallying in the final innings. After entering the fifth down 10-4, Shaw scored one run in the fifth and two more in the sixth to make it a 10-7 game. Hardaway quickly put up two outs in the seventh, but consecutive Shaw doubles by Charlee Hepburn and Alexus McKay made it a one-run game.
With the game on the line, Mitchell had butterflies in her stomach, until she spotted junior pitcher Marchell Johnson settling back into the circle.
“I was really nervous, but then I looked at ‘Chell and knew she had it,” Mitchell said. “I just had to keep calling for her.”
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Mitchell’s faith paid off. Johnson got the next Lady Raider to ground out, holding onto a 10-9 victory to remain in the winner’s bracket of the Region 1-4A tournament.
“All the games we play are tough,” Hardaway head coach Bill Stohr said. “It’s hard to step up and finish it, but that last inning the girls stepped up and made the plays when we needed them. Shaw has always played us tough, and we just didn’t find a way to keep our foot on their throats. They’re a good team.”
The tense final minute of the matchup was a completely different feel from the beginning of the game.
Hardaway took a one-run lead in the first inning after a Auriannah Fluellen single then added two more runs with a walk and a fielder’s choice. Five runs in the second and two more gave the Lady Hawks a 10-0 advantage.
“It felt great, but coach always said to never be too high or too low,” Johnson said. “It felt great, but we knew we still had a game to play.”
Though it came down to the wire, Hardaway advances to play Northside at 5 p.m. Tuesday.
It’s one of the biggest wins. It was Shaw, one of our biggest rivals, and it started us off on a good foot and gave us some cushion in the bracket.
Northside 15, Americus-Sumter 0
Northside’s softball game against Americus-Sumter looked more like a boxing match, with the Lady Patriots’ batters ducking and dodging in the batter’s box in the three-inning victory.
Americus-Sumter’s pitching lacked total command in the circle, allowing Northside to rack up 16 walks. Northside only had two hits in the victory but did manage five stolen bases.
Pitcher Raelee Weaver did her part against Americus-Sumter, surrendering no hits while striking out nine batters. Northside head coach Brandon Jenkins said he was pleased with the work she did to start the region tournament.
“I thought we did really good as far as pitching,” Jenkins said. “Raelee, she’s been good for us this year. I challenged her before the game and said let’s see how good you can be from here on out. I thought she did a really good job of working ahead and finding that strike zone.”
Other Region 1-4A Tournament scores
Columbus 12, Carver 0
Cairo 13, Westover 1
Jordan D. Hill: 770-894-9818, @lesports