Pope eliminates Heritage again

The Pope softball team did it to Heritage again. Kelly Barnhill struck out 11 batters in each of her two complete games and the Greyhounds completed a sweep with a come-from-behind game two victory in the second round of the Class AAAAA state playoffs.

Pope, whose sweep of Heritage a year ago paved the way to a berth in the state championship game, moved to 28-9 and will head to Columbus for next week’s Class AAAAA Elite 8.

Heritage was eliminated in the second round for the third time in the last four seasons and finished a region championship season at 26-7.

Pope scored what turned out to be the winning run in the bottom of the fifth as Megan Metzinger singled and then worked her way around the base paths.

Metzinger got it started with a hard line drive that bounced off Kamryn Toney’s leg at third base. Metzinger then stole second, moved to third on a ground out and scored on a wild pitch by Kierra Camp to put the Greyhounds up 4-3.

That was enough for Barnhill, who rebounded from allowing her first runs of the series to dominate the final four frames. Barnhill, who is an uncommitted junior but has narrowed down her collegiate choices to Stanford and Florida, retired 14 of the last 15 batters she faces to help the Cobb County school advance.

Heritage got all of its series runs in the top of the third inning to take what looked to be a commanding lead.

Diamond Callwood was hit by a pitch to start the inning, she stole second and was sacrifice to third. Camp hit a soft bouncer back to Barnhill and the Pope pitcher’s throw home was late, giving Heritage its first lead of the day.

With pinch-runner LaKaitlen Barney running from first on the pitch, Carri Wilkerson hit a scorching line drive through the vacated hole at shortstop and the ball got past left fielder Katie Deady and rolled all the way to the left-center field fence for a triple. That scored Barney and Taylor Moser followed with a perfect squeeze bunt that chased home Wilkerson for a 3-0 lead.

Pope answered back with two runs in its half of the third. A squeeze bunt RBI by Metzinger made it 3-1 and it was a one-run game after Metzinger went to second on a wild pitch, to third on a passed ball and scored on a fielding error by third baseman Toney.

Pope tied the game at 3-3 in the fourth on Lindsey Monkiewicz’s run-scoring single.

Wilkerson’s triple was the last base-runner for Heritage until Moser’s bloop single with one out in the sixth. Barnhill didn’t let a ball out of the infield the rest of the way, getting the final five outs with ease.

Barnhill struck out 11 and allowed five hits in pitching a complete game shut out in the opener, a 3-0 victory that gave the Greyhounds a 1-0 lead in the series.

Heritage had its chances, but left five in scoring position. Camp walked with two outs in the first, but even after two Barnhill wild pitches moved pinch-runner Barney all the way to third, Barnhill picked up her third strikeout of the inning to strand the runner.

After Moser had a bunt single to start the second, stole second and moved to third on a sacrifice, Barnhill got Heidi Shepherd and Destiny Herrera to strike out looking to escape.

Camp’s single off Barnhill’s glove to open the fourth was quickly erased as Barney, pinch-running again, was caught stealing. Barnhill worked around Addy Allegretti’s double in the sixth by getting Camp to ground out weakly to first.

Heritage tried to rally in the seventh, loading the bases with two outs. Moser was hit by a pitch with one out and with two outs, Shepherd and Herrera both singled. But after falling behind 3-0 to Morgan Whiten, Barnhill ran the count full and got the Patriots’ right fielder to pop out harmlessly to second base to end the game.

Pope got all the runs it would need with a two-out rally in the fourth. Ellyn Strother reached on an error by Moser at first to start the inning, but Camp got two quick outs. Quentin Staton reached on an infield single to move pinch-runner Shawna Finister to third and Katie Deady followed with an opposite field, two-run double to put Pope up 2-0.

Strother’s two-out double in the fifth scored Samantha Crabtree, who had a drawn a lead-off walk, to make it a 3-0 game.

Camp, a senior and Georgia Southern commitment, took the loss in both games despite complete game efforts in each. After Strother’s double, Camp retired in order the final seven batters she faced.