Rockdale softball drops region opener

ATLANTA - It was a tough league opener for the Rockdale softball team Thursday.

Host Druid Hills walked off on a reversed out call and defeated the Bulldogs 8-7 in the Region 2-AAAAAA opener for both schools.

The game was tied at 7-7 when Antaniya Matthews led off the bottom of the seventh inning with a single. Pinch-runner Julia Bartlewski was erased by Carter Beckwith’s fielder’s choice, then Beckwith scooted to second base on a wild pitch. Ke’iera McDowell followed with a ground ball to shortstop that Miasia Mayer scooped up and went to apply the tag on Beckwith attempting to advance to third. The base umpire initially called Beckwith out on the tag for the second out of the inning, but Beckwith kept on running, rounding third and touching home plate as Mayer’s throw to first base went past Kelsey Stewart.

After conversing with the home plate umpire, the base umpire reversed his call, and Beckwith was safe at home with the winning run.

“(The home plate umpire) didn’t see (Mayer) apply the tag, so, reverse call,” said Rockdale coach Justin Arrington, who argued briefly with both officials.

Before the bizzare seventh, Rockdale had taken what turned out to be its final lead of the night, and then coughed it up a half inning later. In the top of the sixth, Mayer drew a leadoff walk and Amanda George reached on an error by third baseman Helen Francis. After a wild pitch by Druid Hills starter and winning pitcher Nicole Gilkeson moved both runners up to second and third, Precious Paul delivered a run-scoring single that tied the game at 6-6. Gilkeson got two quick outs, but then walked Sydney Turner and surrendered Stewart’s go-ahead, infield single that put Rockdale up 7-6.

Druid Hills got even in the bottom of the sixth when Francis reached on a one-out bunt single and three batters later scored on Gilkeson’s sacrifice fly.

Gilkeson had a two-run double and Matthews added a two-run single in the fourth that erased a one-run deficit and gave the Red Devils a 6-3 lead. Rockdale didn’t quit, scoring twice with two outs in the fifth when Sydney Driver doubled and scored on a fielding error by second baseman Elizabeth Aiken and Kaila Gabaree drove home Turner with a single that made it a 6-5 game.

“We’re starting to put the ball in play more. It’s starting to go in the right direction,” said Arrington, whose team was coming off a 17-7 loss in five innings to rival Salem in Tuesday’s season opener.

Druid Hills scored twice with two outs in the first, a rally that began with an error. After Driver, who went the distance in a 132-pitch effort, got two of her nine strikeouts to start the frame, George dropped a pop fly in right field that allowed Gilkeson to reach. Driver, just a sophomore, unraveled a bit after that, walking Matthews and throwing three wild pitches, the last of which chased home pinch-runner Christina Milling with the first run of the night.

Beckwith followed with a bloop double that made it 2-0.

Gilkeson allowed just two singles through the first three innings, but Rockdale finally got on the scoreboard and took its first lead in the fourth. Turner walked with out and scored on a two-base error by McDowell at shortstop. Stewart reached on an error and scored on Gilkeson’s wild pitch before Mayer ripped a run-scoring triple that put the visitors from Conyers up 3-2.

“We’re just trying to build from game to game,” said Arrington. “We’ve got a lot of girls that are new to fastpitch. Overall it was a good game.”

Gilkeson pitched a complete game as well, though despite allowing 18 baserunners, including 10 hits, she got help from a pair of double plays and Rockdale leaving seven runners in scoring position.