Rockdale pitcher Katie Ferrell was good. Nicki Walden of Heritage was a little better.
Walden struck out 11 and allowed one unearned run, besting Ferrell's three-hit, two unearned run performance in the Lady Patriots' 2-1 win.
"(Walden) pitched a great ballgame," Heritage coach Dickey Hightower said. "This is the hardest I've seen her throw. She usually averages about two (strikeouts per game). Her changeup was working good. She throws like that she can help us a lot."
"(Ferrell) did good as usual," said Rockdale coach Justin Arrington, in his first season as the Bulldogs' head coach. "That's why she's going to throw them all. (When Ferrell's pitching) we all feel like we got a chance."
After Ferrell yielded just a walk through two innings, Heritage got all the runs it would need in the third. Kayla Phillips led off with a single and Jessica Martin followed with a sacrifice bunt that Rockdale third baseman Cidney Scoggins threw into center field to put runners at second and third.
Callie Alford lifted a sacrifice fly that scored Phillips and gave the Patriots a 1-0 lead. Two batters later, Amanda Voyles reached on an error by second baseman Jackie Jenkins that scored Martin and made it a 2-0 game.
"They threw the ball away, which helped a little," Hightower said.
Walden got help from her defense on several occasions to maintain the two-run lead. In the first, Scoggins sacrificed Amber Mitchell to second, but Mitchell was thrown out at third trying to pick up an extra base.
An inning later, Alford made a fantastic play on a popped-up bunt by Jenkins with runners at first and second. Walden struck out the final two batters to end the inning.
In the fifth, Quilla Franklin tried to stretch her infield single but was thrown out in a rundown to end the frame.
Rockdale finally got to Walden in the sixth. With one out, Scoggins reached on an error, Ferrell walked and Bre Richardson singled to load the bases. Jenkins was hit on the elbow to force in a run and make it 2-1. Walden once again got big strikeouts, getting Lexi Jones and Candace Johnson looking to end the inning.
"It was real tough; seems like every time we came up with runners in scoring position we were watching," Arrington said.
Walden lived on the edge in the seventh as well. She walked Franklin and gave up a single to Mitchell before striking out Scoggins for the second out. Ferrell followed with a ground ball to third, and Franklin beat third baseman Voyles in a foot race to the bag to load the bases. But Walden struck out Richardson swinging on her 136th pitch to end the game.
"Heritage has a pretty good little softball team; it was a good game," Arrington said.
"They've got a good ball club, (and) I thought Ferrell pitched a good game for them," Hightower said. "That's about as good a game as we've played from the first to the seventh. We're 2-0 in the subregion. That's what we're striving for, to be No. 1."
Rockdale plays a nonregion game today against Griffin. Heritage continues Region 8-AAAA play with a game at Salem on Thursday. Rockdale will host Heritage on Sept. 22.
Kurt Aschermann Jr. can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.