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Three-run second propels Heritage to 5-1 win

CONYERS - Three weeks ago, Heritage waited until its last at-bat to score the winning runs and knock off county rival, Salem.

On Thursday, the Lady Patriots got their scoring out of the way early. Rachel Stover and Chandler Shepherd had run-scoring singles in a three-run second inning and Nikki Walden scattered six hits in a complete game effort to lead Heritage to a 5-1 win over the visiting Lady Seminoles.

With the Patriots leading 1-0 thanks to Amanda Voyles' RBI-groundout in the first inning, Kayla Phillips led off the second with a single, stole second, and with one out, No. 7 hitter Melissa Drish singled and stole second to set up a second-and-third situation.

Stover followed with a nice suicide squeeze that scored Phillips and made it 2-0. With No. 9 hitter Shepherd at the plate, the Patriots tried another squeeze, but Salem starter Rylee Rogers threw a wild pitch and Drish scored easily to make it a 3-0 game. Shepherd ripped a single that chased home Stover for all the runs Walden would need.

"The squeeze worked nice. Rachel Stover put down a great squeeze bunt. (And) when you get a wild pitch (on a squeeze) you better score," Heritage coach Dickey Hightower said. "The second inning was key, scored all those runs with the bottom of the order. The bottom of the order, kids that don't really play a lot, but this senior day and they really came through."

Simone Davenport had a two-out, RBI single in the fifth to give the Patriots a 5-0 lead and Walden worked around several jams to maintain the shutout through five innings.

In the first, Taylor Beauchamp singled and Jessica Vason was hit by a pitch and they moved up to second and third on a wild pitch. But Walden struck out Joy Vason and got Rogers to ground out to end the threat.

With two outs in the third, Beauchamp and Vason again reached on single and hit batsmen, respectively, but Walden got a fielder's choice for the third out.

Walden worked around a runner at second with one out in the fourth, striking out Kayla Yorkman and inducing a ground out from Stephanie Brassard.

"That was one of her better outing. She beared down and got out of trouble," Hightower said of Walden.

Salem finally broke through in the sixth inning. Jessica Vason ripped a double just past the diving Voyles at third to start the inning and Joy Vason followed with an infield single. Rogers moved the runners up to second and third with a sacrifice bunt and after O'Keema Turk popped out and Yorkman walked, Brassard laced a single up the middle to cut the Heritage lead to 5-1.

But like she'd done all game, Walden wiggled out of trouble, getting Mackinzy Rogers to ground weakly into a fielder's choice. Salem left nine runners on base, six of which were in scoring position.

"Any time we get runners on base (and) we can't get clutch hits, we're never going to win," said Lady Seminoles' coach Stephanie Bassett. "I don't know what it is."

Besides the rough second inning, Rogers, just a freshman, pitched well. After Shepherd's hit made it 4-0, Rogers retired nine of the next 10 batters she faced before the Patriots' rally in the fifth.

"(Rogers has) gotten stronger and gotten mentally tougher; I'm really pleased," Bassett said.