Northside senior pitcher Hannah George had every reason to be too tired for the Lady Patriots’ deciding game on Saturday.
George has been a constant in the Northside pitching circle, having thrown 21 innings for the Lady Patriots on Thursday and Friday. She came in Saturday morning and threw seven more innings, giving up just two runs in a 2-0 loss to Stephens County.
Because of the loss, Northside had to face the Lady Indians again with the Class 4A state title on the line. And despite only minutes between Game 1 and Game 2, George was deadset that she would be the one pitching for the Lady Patriots.
“There was no doubt,” George said. “Even if I didn’t have my best stuff, I knew my team would come and rally behind me.”
If George didn’t bring her best, the Lady Indians would have never known. She was absolutely dominant in her final high school start, pitching seven innings with only one allowed hit and eight strikeouts in Northside’s 6-0 victory.
George also played a role in the offense’s big outing, hitting an RBI single in the bottom of the first to give the team its first lead of the game.
“She’s been a workhorse all year,” Northside head coach Brandon Jenkins said. “We knew what we were getting out of her. I told her that if she gives us a chance, our offense would take care of her. I told the offense, ‘Just score two runs in this championship game, and we’ll be fine.’”
George gave Stephens County problems in the first game Saturday, but one bad inning wrecked the outing. George said she and her teammates talked openly about the next game’s do-or-die nature, making it clear they weren’t going to lose again.
To George’s credit, when it came time to put up or shut up, George put up nothing but zeroes on Stephens County’s side of the scoreboard.
George explained the team’s early lead was very valuable for her own comfort level. She said with a multi-run advantage, there was a lot less pressure if she missed a spot or accidently left a pitch right down the middle of the plate. George’s relaxed, business-as-usual nature was a direct contrast to a frustrated Lady Indians’ lineup that had just handed her a loss earlier in the day.
With one out to go in the top of the seventh, it was George who finished the job, striking out the last Stephens County batter to seal the first state title in Northside softball history.
“I was trying not to cry,” George said about the final strikeout. “It was mixed emotions. I was happy, but I was sad because it was my last game playing in a Northside uniform.”
George has been at the forefront of the Northside’s transformation into the most dangerous softball team in Muscogee County and a perennial championship contender. She showed absolutely no signs of weakness in the final win, and while she might spend Sunday icing up, it was only right she finished what she helped start.
“There was no doubt (about pitching George in Game 2). She wouldn’t have let me take her out of the circle,” Jenkins said. “She’s a bulldog. If I would have asked her to, she would have told me to leave and go back to the dugout.
“She gave us her all. I would have had to carry her off the field in order to get her out of the circle.”
Jordan D. Hill: 770-894-9818, @lesports