CONYERS - Not a bad way to start a new era of Rockdale softball and get the region schedule off on the right foot.
Behind a two-hit shutout from senior ace Katie Ferrell, Rockdale defeated Monroe Area 9-0 in a mercy rule-shortened six innings Tuesday in the first game at the Bulldogs new softball field.
A small ceremony preceded the Region 8-AAAA opener, with Rockdale principal Georgi Brown and booster club members Brad Smith and Darlene Hotchkiss throwing out ceremonial first pitches. After that Rockdale coach Justin Arrington and his team presented Brown with the first-place trophy from last weekend's Social Circle Redskin Invitational.
"It was a good crowd, probably the biggest crowd we'll see," Arrington said. "(It was) good for the girls."
Once the game began, Ferrell and Monroe starter Morgan Fambrough settled into a pitcher's duel through two innings. Monroe had a chance to take an early lead in the top of the second, getting singles from Kiley Doster and Fambrough, but Madison Loggins bounced into a fielder's choice to third and after a throwing error by Rockdale third baseman Cidney Scoggins, Bre Robertson's relay throw cut down Fambrough at the plate to end the inning.
That seemed to energize Rockdale. Ferrell set the Hurricanes down in order in the third and in the bottom half the Bulldogs scored the only runs they'd need. Katelyn Baker had a one-out single and Quilla Franklin followed with a run-scoring single, got into a rundown between third and home and scored when Fambrough's relay throw bounced off Doster's glove for a 2-0 lead.
Sandwiched around Scoggins' sacrifice bunt, Candace Johnson and Ferrell reached on errors by second baseman Cayla Mitchell, the last of which scored Johnson for a 3-0 cushion.
"Lot of small ball; if we can't hit that's our No. 2 option," Arrington said. "(Franklin) gets up it kind of rejuvenates the lineup; she's a spark. Candace, pretty much the same thing. We get those two on, pretty much one or two is going to score."
Ferrell looked to be appreciative of the run support. The right-hander, who opened the season Aug. 20 with a perfect game against Locust Grove and went 4-1 at Social Circle, threw just six pitches in both the fourth and fifth innings and retired the final 14 batters she faced. Ferrell struck out just four batters, but got 11 ground ball outs.
"She's pretty much (a) No. 1, shut down pitcher," Arrington said of Ferrell.
Rockdale didn't let up, again taking advantage of a sloppy Monroe defense in scoring three runs in both the fifth and sixth innings. The Bulldogs sent seven batters to the plate in the fifth, scoring on errors by shortstop Katie Thurmond and Doster, and grabbing a 6-0 lead on Ferrell's RBI-infield single. In the sixth, Monroe botched another run down and dropped a throw on a ground ball to push the Rockdale lead to 8-0 and Franklin picked up her third hit to make it 9-0.
"You can never have too many runs," Arrington said.