Heritage splits two tourney games

It was a tale of two games for the Heritage softball team on opening day at the South Gwinnett Diamond Classic.

The Patriots won their opener 4-0 over South Gwinnett in six innings, then fell 9-3 to Apalachee in five innings in pool play of the 24-team tournament.

Heritage jumped on top early against South Gwinnett freshman Christina Skipper, making her first career start. Rose Bish, making her first appearance for Heritage after transferring from Central Gwinnett, reached on an error to start the first.

Callie Alford followed two batters later with a double that scored Bish, while Alford came around to score when the relay throw sailed into the Patriots' dugout. Liz Forrester ripped a run-scoring double in the third to make it 3-0 and Amanda Voyles added an RBI-single in the fifth to put Heritage up 4-0.

Meanwhile, staff ace Lydia Walden shut down South Gwinnett, tossing a five-hit shutout. Walden, who is taking over the reigns as the team's No. 1 starter after pitching in eight games as a sophomore in 2008, pitched around trouble in several innings.

In the first, South Gwinnett center fielder Britney Warren roped a two-out double, but Walden got a ground out to end the inning. The host Comets got a lead-off single from Danyelle Wilson in the third, but Bish made a diving stop at second base on a line drive to end the frame. South Gwinnett loaded the bases with one out in the fifth, but Walden, who was pitching with a variety of ailments including a sore back, got two ground outs to preserve the shut-out.

"I think she did real well; I think she had a good outing," Heritage coach Dickey Hightower said. "She's not going to strike out a lot (of batters) so she has to get ahead. The main thing (was) she didn't walk anyone. If she can keep from walking people we're in business."

Apalachee, which won both its pool games Friday, got to Heritage starter Lauren Golden early in the nightcap. Kaitlyn Medlam had a run-scoring single in the second and an RBI-double in the third as the Wildcats grabbed a 5-0 lead.

Medlam seemed to enjoy the cushion, striking out the side in both the first and third innings, and finishing the complete game allowing five hits and one earned run. Despite Golden's struggles, Hightower was just happy to see the sophomore on the mound.

"(Golden) has worked as hard as anybody; she could not pitch at all last year and now she can," Hightower said. "She has improved 100 percent."

Chandler Shepherd had an RBI-single in the fourth to make it an 8-2 game, and trailing 9-2 in the fifth and final inning (the games were limited to one hour and 15 minutes), Heritage got an infield single from Bish and the newest Patriot scored on an error by Apalachee shortstop Kristen Clack to make it 9-3.

Kurt Aschermann Jr. can be reached at kurt.aschermann@rockdalecitizen.com.