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Seminoles walk off with win

CONYERS -- Salem's softball team was down to its last out Thursday against region foe Winder-Barrow. But the Seminoles were just getting started. Joy Vason delivered a clutch, two-run double and Salem took advantage of a pair of Winder errors to squeak out a walk-off 8-7 victory.

The Seminoles came into the bottom of the seventh trailing 7-5, but Whitney Lester reached on an error to start the frame. After a pop out, Taylor Beauchamp's hard grounder skipped over shortstop Marissa Merrill's head to put runners at first and second. Third baseman Ashley Waits made a fine, bare-handed play of a ground ball for the second out, but Vason followed with a double to tie the game at 7-7. Patricia Clark, who reached base in all four trips to the plate, hit a ground ball that second baseman Erin Harbin couldn't handle, chasing home pinch-runner Peyton Canty with the game-winner.

"Here's what happens with us as a team -- these girls, sometimes they battle, they battle, they battle. They battle, man," said Salem coach Maurice Gibson, whose team improved to 4-2 and 2-1 in Region 8-AAAA.

Winder Barrow (4-6, 1-2) had a come back of its own to grab the lead in the top of the seventh. Seminoles starter Lester was pitching well and led 5-3, and after a nine-pitch battle with Tamara Orr ended in a ground out, the sophomore right-hander was two outs away from the complete game victory. The visiting Bulldoggs instead got a walk from Harbin and consecutive singles from Kylie Smith and Jessica Allen, the last of which chased home Harbin to make it a 5-4 game. Ashley Waits followed and didn't waste any time, jumping on Lester's first offering and driving it for a two-run double to put Winder up 6-5. A pair of Salem errors later in the inning made it 7-5.

Salem built a three-run lead in the middle innings thanks to the middle of the order, which had no trouble with Winder starter Karri Kiley. Vason, the No. 5 hitter, and No. 6 hitter Clark had consecutive, run-scoring doubles in the second to erase an early 2-0 deficit. In the fourth, the Seminoles got four straight hits from No. 3 hitter Beauchamp, clean up hitter Rogers, Vason and Clark, then Kara Bassett added a sacrifice fly to put the hosts up 5-2.

"That's the best hitting game we've ever had," Gibson said. "(The middle of the order are) the people that have been really hitting the ball. That's what's been carrying us."

Lester was excellent through much of the game, retiring 12 consecutive batters from the second through the early part of the sixth before an error by left fielder Kendra Jenkins allowed Winder to get to within 5-3.

"She's been lights out, just lights out," Gibson said of Lester. "That's the way she does it, very happy with that."