LAWRENCEVILLE - Heritage scored five runs in the top of the fifth inning and held on in the bottom half to secure a 9-6 victory over host Central Gwinnett in the finale of the South Gwinnett Diamond Classic.
The Patriots trailed 6-4 after four innings, but the first four batters in the fifth - Simone Davenport, Amanda Voyles, Liz Forrester and Lydia Walden - all reached base and scored, the last of which on a single by Jessica Martin that chased losing pitcher Kaitlin Hussey (41/3 IP, 6 ER) and gave Heritage an 8-6 lead. Rose Bish, playing her first game against her former team, followed with a run-scoring single off Jessica Porter to make it 9-6.
"In that fifth we scored some runs; it was important that we come up and swing the bats," Heritage coach Dickey Hightower said.
In a seesaw game, Central Gwinnett snapped a 4-4 tie with two runs in the fourth. Winning pitcher Lydia Walden, who finished the two-day tournament with a 3-1 record, walked Jennie Chamness and Ashlyn Arp to start the inning and both came around to score on Bri Hampton's two-run single that gave the Black Knights a 6-4 lead. After the Patriots' fifth-inning rally, Central loaded the bases with three singles in the bottom of the fifth, but Walden struck out Hampton to end the game.
"She did hold her walks down until (the Central Gwinnett) game," Hightower said of Walden. "She's got to get mentally tougher (because) a lot of our season is going to depend on her."
Heritage jumped on top 2-0 in the top of the first inning. Bish led off with a triple and scored on Kayla Phillips' infield single. Three batters later, Voyles delivered a run-scoring single to make it 2-0.
Central Gwinnett answered in the third, sending eight batters to the plate. Katie New walked with one out and Kara Hembree followed with a bunt single. After a foul out in which New and Hembree alertly tagged up and advanced to second and third, Allyssa Pane ripped a two-run single to tie it at 2-2. Hussey followed with a double, Kandi Duran had an RBI-single and the final run scored on a fielding error by Voyles that gave the Black Knights a 4-2 lead.
"We got some things we've got to work out," Hightower said.
The Patriots tied the game again in their half of the fourth when Bish singled in a run and later scored on one of six Central Gwinnett errors.
Earlier in the day, Heritage split two games, defeating Jefferson 9-4 and falling 4-1 to Providence Christian. In the win over Jefferson, the Patriots trailed 4-3 until Davenport crushed a go-ahead grand slam off freshman starter Morgan McKinney in the bottom of the fifth inning.
"Simone is a strong hitter. If you throw her a ball down the middle of the plate you can kiss it goodbye," said Hightower.
Providence ace Kylie Kleinschmidt shut down the Heritage bats in the middle game, striking out eight in a four-hit, complete game victory. Heritage, which finished the 24-team tournament with a 3-2 record, grabbed an early lead again as Bish led off the first with a single and scored on a bases loaded walk to Forrester. But Kleinschmidt settled in and surrendered just two hits after the first inning in a 104-pitch gem.
"The Providence pitcher was good," Hightower said. "Overall I was pleased (and) I thought we swung the bats (in the tournament) one-through-nine better than we ever have. This is the best record we've had in the South Gwinnett Tournament. I'm pretty happy."
Kurt Aschermann Jr. can be reached at email@example.com