DANIELSVILLE - Jamie Melson made sure nothing got in the way of Heritage's goal of a state tournament berth Tuesday in the Region 8-AAAA tournament.
The crafty senior left-hander tossed 14 shutout innings as the Lady Patriots (22-6-1) clinched a trip to the Class AAAA sectional with an 8-0 victory against Habersham Central in the opener and then a 3-0 victory against Apalachee in the second game.
"We're in the (state) sectional, but it's just like I told the girls, we're out here to win this thing now," Heritage coach Dickey Hightower said. "It all starts right out there on the mound with Jamie. She pitched 14 innings and didn't give up a single run, and that's exactly what we needed from her. She was just tremendous out there."
The Lady Patriots advance to play Loganville, a 1-0 winner over Madison County, today in the winners' bracket at 6 p.m.
Against Habersham Central, Melson did her job on the mound, keeping the Lady Raiders in check.
The Lady Patriots struck for their first run in the bottom of the first. Leadoff batter Whitney Phillips reached on an error, stole second and scored on a throwing error after moving to third on a fly ball.
Heritage put the game away in the bottom of the fifth.
After falling behind 0-2, Jessica Hornsby worked a leadoff walk. Amanda Voyles and Melson followed with singles to load the bases.
Jaclyn Queen, Sloan Davenport and Phillips followed with RBI singles to give the Lady Patriots a 4-0 advantage.
And then, Callie Alford ended the game with one swing, crushing a walk-off grand slam home run to left-center field to wrap up the 8-0 victory.
Against Apalachee, the game was scoreless until Heritage struck for two runs in the top of the sixth.
Once again, Phillips was the catalyst for the Lady Patriots. The senior singled with one out, stole second and scored on Kat Baize's infield single in the hole at second.
Alford followed with a single to right and Baize never stopped running, scoring all the way from first to make it 2-0.
Heritage tacked on another run in the top of the seventh. Voyles led off with a single and her courtesy runner, Jessica Martin, scored later on Davenport's sacrifice fly to the fence.
"Offensively, we did the things we needed to do to score some runs. We were really aggressive in the sixth inning and it helped us score some runs," Hightower said. "When you get Whitney on base, you ought to score a run. You have to remember Whitney is playing at about 60 percent. She gives you everything that she's got."
Three runs are all Melson needed on the mound.
After the senior escaped some early trouble, she returned 10 straight batters from third through the sixth innings.
The Wildcats' leadoff batter reached on an error to start the bottom of the seventh, but Melson struck out the next batters to wrap up the victory.
Melson didn't allow a hit after the third inning, tossing a four-hitter with five strikeouts and no walks.
Meanwhile, Rockdale (10-14-1) dropped an 8-0 decision to Madison County its opening game. The Lady Bulldogs will face Apalachee today at 4 p.m. in the losers' bracket.
Madison County broke the game open with three runs in the third inning to take a 4-0 lead right after the Lady Bulldogs failed to score after having runners on second and third with one out in the top half of the frame.
Jeff Gillespie can be reached at email@example.com.