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Heritage sweeps Stephenson, on to second round

Heritage is moving on. Kamryn Toney tossed a pair of complete games and the Region 8-AAAAA champions swept a doubleheader from Stephenson in the first round of the Class AAAAA state playoffs.

Heritage (26-5), which won the program’s first region championship since 2002 and has won seven consecutive games, will host either Pope, in a rematch of last season’s second round series or South Paulding in next week’s round of 16 with a spot in the Elite 8 in Columbus on the line.

Toney retired the first nine batters she faced in game two before Shayla Smith reached on an error by third baseman Ta’lor Bynum to start the fourth. Two batters later, Jordyn Saxton’s single chased home Smith for an unearned run, which turned out to be Stephenson’s only run of the series.

The sophomore right-hander was outstanding otherwise, striking out nine and scattering three hits in sending the Patriots to the second round for the third time in the last four seasons.

Toney got plenty of run support, thanks in large part to Heidi Shepherd, who had a two-run double and a run-scoring single, and Carri Wilkerson (RBI-single, sacrifice fly).

Heritage scored three times in the sixth, the big blow being Shepherd’s near-home run-turned double that hit the base of the left field fence to score two runs. Toney worked around a lead off triple in the bottom of the sixth to finish off the 10-1 victory and the sweep.

Heritage won 8-0 in six innings in the opener, though the Patriots ran into several outs on the base paths. Addy Allegretti and Taylor Moser were caught stealing for the first two outs of the first, and in the sixth, pinch-runner LaKaitlen Barney was thrown out attempting to swipe third. Meanwhile, Moser was caught off first and that pick off erased the Heritage first baseman’s one-out single in the fifth. Barney’s caught stealing didn’t hurt as the Patriots still scored four times in that final half inning, including a two-run triple from Diamond Callwood, who came all the way around to score after the ball was misplayed in center field by Bria Scott, ending the game by-mercy rule.

The Patriots were also unlucky in the opener as several balls were hit well, but right at Stephenson fielders. One was a hard line drive up the middle by Allegretti that Stephenson starter Jordyn Powell made a miraculous catch of for the first out of the third.

The hosts got the only run they’d need in the first. Callwood started with a line drive single to center field, stole second and third and scored on Allegretti’s hard single to right field.

Heritage took a four-run lead an inning later when Destiny Herrera poked an RBI-single and scored on the back end of a double steal, then Bynum lifted a sacrifice fly to make it 4-0.

That was more than enough for Toney, who was efficient, tossing just 63 pitches in the complete game shut out.

The right-hander retired the first seven batters she faced before Powell reached on a bunt single with one out in the third. Powell was quickly erased when catcher Heidi Shepherd’s pick-off throw to first nipped the sliding Stephenson pitcher.

Stephenson wouldn’t get another base-runner until Leah Birdsong drew a walk to lead off the sixth. Birdsong was sacrificed to second - the first time the Jaguars had a runner reach second base - and though Smith polished off an eight-pitch at bat with an opposite-field single to put runners at second and third with two outs, Toney got Nailah Manning to pop out harmlessly to third to end Stephenson’s only threat.

Stephenson, the No. 4 seed from Region 6, finished 12-12.