CONYERS - Last weekend at the Greenbrier Tournament, Laura Golden notched her first varsity victory over Lakeside-Evans. Monday, the Heritage sophomore secured another milestone.
The right-hander threw a four-inning, no-hitter in the Patriots' 12-0 win over Monroe Area. The game was a makeup from last Tuesday's rain out.
Golden, a capable No. 2 starter behind staff ace Nikki Walden, was economical in her four innings, throwing just 42 pitches. After retiring the first six batters she faced, Golden walked Morgan Fambrough to start the third, then was indecisive on Hannah Johnson's come backer, shortstop Kayla Phillips couldn't handle Golden's throw and runners were at first and second with no one out. But Golden settled down, striking out Meka Hall and inducing a fielder's choice out of Mallory Brown. Callie Alford, one of the finest defensive catchers in Class AAAA, picked off Brown at first to end the threat.
"She pitched better today than I've seen her (pitch); she had a better fastball," Heritage coach Dickey Hightower said of Golden. "That's nice for her, she got her first varsity win down in Augusta and she pitched a decent ball game there, but her (personal) pitching coach (Angie Buckem) showed up today and I think she pitched a little better with her here."
Heritage (16-9) got to work right away against a wild Fambrough in the bottom of the first. The Monroe (1-17) right-hander went to a 3-2 count on the first four batters, including Alford, who led off with a single, stole second, went to third on a throwing error by catcher Kiley Doster and raced home with the game's first run when third baseman Whitleigh McKissick's throw back to the pitcher sailed toward the first-base dugout.
Phillips doubled to open the second, but Fambrough struck out Rachelle Stover and Jessica Martin. No big deal for Alford, who laced an opposite-field double that scored Phillips and gave Heritage a 2-0 lead. In the third, Liz Forrester had an RBI-groundout; Melissa Drish added an RBI-single and then came around to score on another throwing error by Doster that made it 5-0.
The Patriots ended the game by mercy rule in the fourth, scoring seven runs against freshman left-hander Charlie Dutton. No surprise, Alford had a lead off walk and a two-run double in the frame, while Voyles (run-scoring single); Simone Davenport (RBI-triple) and Forrester (RBI-single) all contributed to the onslaught.
"All (Dutton) was doing was throwing the fast ball down the middle," Hightower said. "(But) I'd rather us come out here and hit some live pitching. It's good for (Alford) to hit the ball. I asked her if leading off was putting pressure (on her). She said 'I don't care.' When you get on base, you count on her to score."
Heritage, which was coming off a 3-1 record at the Greenbrier Tournament that included Golden's win, will get a stiff test today, when it hosts Loganville. The Red Devils, defending league champions, defeated Heritage, 8-0 on September 10.
"I'd like us to play decent; I don't care if we win," Hightower said, noting the region tournament seeding was already set. "I'd like to play a good ball club and see if we can play a decent game."
Kurt Aschermann Jr. can be reached at email@example.com.