So far, so good. Simone Davenport belted a two-run home run and Nikki Walden pitched a complete game, five-hitter to lead Heritage to a 4-1 win over Winder-Barrow in the second round of the Region 8-AAAA Tournament.
Davenport's first-inning home run, a long blast to left field, came one pitch after the sophomore first baseman missed a home run by a few feet.
"I think that was pretty doggone important. Any time you can get out 2-0 on a pretty good team, that's pretty important," Heritage coach Dickey Hightower said.
The Patriots, who improved to 18-10, added to their lead in the third thanks to Winder-Barrow's defense. Callie Alford singled with one out, stole second and moved to third on an error by catcher Shelby Reed. With two outs, Amanda Voyles reached on an error by shortstop Nicole Turner that scored Alford and made it 3-0. Alford and Voyles struck again in the fifth. Alford roped a double with one out and two batters later, Voyles singled up the middle to make it 4-0.
After a 1-2-3 first inning, Walden worked in and out of trouble in each of the next five innings and took a shutout into the sixth inning. In the second, Walden dropped Marissa Merrill's popup to start the inning, then walked Reed, but Walden settled down and got the final three outs to keep the Bulldoggs off the scoreboard.
In the fourth, Merrill singled and Reed followed with a double, but Winder coach Leann Mitchell made the mistake of sending Merrill home. Left fielder Jessica Martin and shortstop Kayla Phillips made a perfect relay to Alford who tagged Merrill for the first out. Walden then got a fly out and a ground out to wiggle out of trouble.
Base-running miscues hurt Winder again in the fifth. Erin Vrooman, after leading off with a single and getting sacrificed to second, took off for third on a ground ball to shortstop and Phillips made a perfect throw to Voyles for the second out. Walden got a ground out to escape that jam.
"Any time they're (going to) give you (outs), it's big," said Hightower. "We made the throws."
Winder-Barrow (9-14) finally got to Walden in the sixth. Mackenzie Palette reached on an error by Phillips and later scored on Reed's RBI-double to make it a 4-1 game.
Bulldoggs right-hander Kylie Smith went six innings and allowed three earned runs, striking out six in a 106-pitch effort.
With the win, Heritage travels to Madison County today to play the host Red Raiders, who haven't lost since Aug. 22.
"We've got to play errorless ball. You can't make mistakes against a team like that," Hightower said of 22-1 Madison County. "We've just got to play a good ball game."
Palette pitched a complete game, two-hitter to lead the Bulldoggs in a first-round game earlier in the day. Palette worked out of her only jam in the sixth with the help of a Salem base-running mistake and some solid defense.
Tori Beauchamp, who opened the inning with a single and moved to second on a sacrifice, tried to take third on a wild pitch but was gunned down by catcher Reed for the second out. After Jessica Vason singled to put runners at first and second, O'Keema Turk's one-hop grounder was gobbled up by third baseman Smith, who forced Rylee Rogers for the third out.
Palette made it much less interesting in the seventh, striking out the side, adding to the Seminoles' season-long frustrations at the plate.
"I told the girls after the game, we can steadily hold teams to one, two runs and that's a testament to out pitching and defense," said Salem coach Stephanie Bassett. "(But) when we finally get people on base we can't give it up."
Rogers was the tough-luck loser, allowing Palette's run-scoring single in the fifth for the game's only run. Salem, which fell to 10-13, plays the loser of Apalachee-Habersham Central today at 2 p.m. at Madison County.
Habersham Central 2, Rockdale 1
Rockdale plays Winder-Barrow in an elimination game, today at 2 p.m. at Loganville.