Too much Madison County small ball turned into a big loss for Heritage.
Melissa Drish's fielding error in the top of the eighth inning, which came four batters after the sixth infield hit of the game for the visiting Red Raiders, allowed two runs to score in Madison County's 9-7 win over Heritage on Monday evening.
With international tie-breaker rules in effect, Madison County had Brandi Osborne on at second base to start the eighth, and Sarah Smith reached on her second infield hit of the game to put runners at the corners with no one out. Ariel Bates sacrificed Smith to second before Heritage starter Lydia Walden struck out pinch-hitter Cortney Boggs and intentionally walked Haley Peeples to load the bases. Abby Atkinson then hit a ground ball to shortstop Kayla Phillips, whose toss to second couldn't be handled and Osborne and Smith scampered home to make it 9-7.
Madison County had a chance to take the lead in the top of the seventh, but Heritage left fielder Rose Bish made an outstanding, diving catch and doubled off Katie Bolin at second base to end the inning.
Madison County (1-0) led 6-3 before Smith, who started the game and allowed five earned runs in 41/3 innings, tired in the fifth inning, and the Patriots sent 10 batters to the plate and took their first lead of the game.
Bish led off with a single and Phillips and Callie Alford followed with walks to load the bases. Simone Davenport hit into a fielder's choice that forced Bish at the plate, but Amanda Voyles, Liz Forrester and pinch-hitter Rachelle Stover had consecutive run-scoring singles to tie the game at 6-6.
Two batters later, Jessica Martin took a borderline 3-2 pitch with the bases loaded that was called a ball, forcing in Forrester to put Heritage up 7-6.
The lead wouldn't last. In the top of the sixth, Smith led off with an infield hit, moved to second on a sacrifice and to third on a ground out, before Peeples blooped a single that tied the game at 7-7.
Walden, who went 3-1 in last weekend's South Gwinnett Diamond Classic, struggled from the start and put Heritage (3-3) in a 5-1 hole after three innings. Peeples and Atkinson led off the first with consecutive bunt singles and later, Peeples scored on a passed ball and Bolin and Olivia Duncan had RBI hits to make it 3-0. Bish scored on the back end of a double steal and error by Bolin to cut the deficit to 3-1. The Red Raiders made it 5-1 in the third as Bolin doubled and scored on a throwing error by Voyles at first and Osborne's run-scoring triple. Walden went the distance for Heritage, allowing five earned runs in a 122-pitch effort.
Erin Gibson pitched well in relief of Smith. After surrendering Forrester's hit in the fifth, the left-hander walked one and allowed two singles in 32/3 innings of one-run relief to pick up the victory. Trailing 9-7 in the bottom of the eighth, Drish, on at second base to start the inning, was thrown out at third trying to advance on a wild pitch for the first out. Gibson worked around Bish's third hit of the night to get Phillips to line out to Atkinson at short to end the game.
After playing six games in four days, Heritage takes two days off before opening this weekend's Madison County Tournament, Thursday against Franklin County.
Kurt Aschermann Jr. can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org