CONYERS - Amanda Voyles had been coming up with big hits for Heritage throughout the season's first month. Thursday evening was no different.
Voyles blooped a two-out, two-run single in the seventh inning that snapped a 4-4 tie and sent Heritage to its third consecutive win, a 6-4 victory over Salem.
With one out, Kayla Phillips walked and stole second. Callie Alford reached on an infield single and later stole second to set up Voyles' hit, which was just out of the reach of Salem second baseman Taylor Beauchamp.
"The key is getting somebody on and getting a key hit," Patriots coach Dickey Hightower said. "Amanda's been clutch for us all year."
Salem had tied the score with a two-run rally in the bottom of the fifth off Heritage starter Nikki Walden (CG, 7 H, 4 ER). Kristen George led off with a walk, and Tori Beauchamp followed with a single that went under the glove of shortstop Phillips to put runners at first and second.
That's when Tori Beauchamp's freshman sister, Taylor, took over. She followed with a single that scored George, though Tori Beauchamp was thrown out at third trying to grab an extra base.
After O'Keema Turk grounded out, Hightower elected to intentionally walk Jessica Vason, and the move backfired. Walden's second intentional ball went to the backstop, and Tori Beauchamp scurried home with the tying run, setting off a raucous celebration in the Seminoles' dugout.
"The girls got really excited; I think that's the most excited I've seen them," Salem coach Stephanie Bassett said. "It's good to see. Taylor really had a good showing this game."
"(Walden) was trying to throw it further outside and ... that's what high school softball is all about, who's going to give up the most runs," Hightower said.
Salem took the first lead of the game in the bottom of the first, getting a sacrifice fly out of Jessica Vason to go up 1-0.
Heritage (11-7, 3-0 Region 8-AAAA) quickly took the lead back against starter Rylee Rogers (CG, 5 ER, 7 K). Simone Davenport led off the second inning with a single, was sacrificed to second and scored the tying run when Rogers uncorked a wild pitch.
In the third, Walden reached on an error, and pinch-runner Rachelle Stover scored on Callie Alford's RBI single to make it 2-1. Alford later stole home on the back end of a double steal, sliding under the tag of Salem catcher Joy Vason to give the Patriots a 3-1 lead.
"We've got two, three girls that can steal bases," Hightower said. "We thought we could steal."
Rogers' control problems continued in the fourth. Melissa Drish, who has played well in her first year of softball, walked with one out and stole second. Rogers then threw two wild pitches, the last of which allowed Drish to score and put Heritage up 4-1.
"We tried a new windup thing (with Rogers); we're still working on it," Bassett said.
Salem (7-5, 1-2) got to within 4-2 in its half of the fourth on Joy Vason's two-out, run-scoring single.
Trailing by two in the bottom of the seventh, the Seminoles had the tying run at first with two outs, but Walden caught Rogers looking to end the game.
"Nikki beared down there in the seventh inning," Hightower said. "She lost her focus, but she got it back. These are good ball games; you learn more from a tight ball game."
"It's a tough game to have to lose," Bassett said.
Kurt Aschermann Jr. can be reached at email@example.com.