Continuing a trend from recent years, the annual softball game between the Evans Lady Knights and Harlem Lady Bulldogs came down to a final at-bat.
In their home opener Thursday night, the Lady Knights scored a run in the bottom of the sixth inning to break a 2-2 tie. They put the Lady Bulldogs down in order in the top of the seventh to hang on for the 3-2 win.
With the game on the line, Lady Knights head softball coach Colette Cassedy showed her confidence in a freshman.
In the bottom of the sixth inning, with one out and Alexis Schlein on first, Cassedy had Jenna Cliatt sacrifice Schlein to second, bringing up freshman third baseman Brooke Hayes. Hayes’ bloop single brought Schlein home with the game-winner.
“She’s gutsy and doesn’t let too much get to her, that’s unusual for a freshman,” said Cassedy of putting Hayes in the pressure-filled at-bat.
The Lady Knights (6-1) came in averaging 10 runs-a-game and the Lady Bulldogs (7-2) averaging nine runs-a-game, but it quickly developed into a pitching duel. Lady Knights senior Natalie Johnson was just a hair better than Lady Bulldogs sophomore Amber Garrett, allowing two runs on five hits while striking out six. Garrett (4-2) finished with six strikeouts as well, surrendering six hits in the process.
The Lady Knights struck first in the bottom of the third as Brooke Buck followed two infield singles with a sharp grounder into left field that scored Savannah Gabriel and Elyssa Melton.
With the way Johnson started the game, it appeared two runs would be more than enough as she recorded her six strikeouts in the first three innings.
The Lady Bulldogs broke through in the fifth with a Christian Mullis single, stolen base, wild pitch and Morgan Hobbins sacrifice fly.
In the sixth, Lindsey Stokes led off with a single, was sacrificed to second and came home with the tie run on Bailey Sheppard’s double.
Harlem coach Mike Leverett knew it would probably be a close game and liked how his team performed.
“We hit the ball hard but we just hit it right at them,” Leverett said. “We played well and I’m satisfied with the way we played.”