North Hall wasn’t the only Hall County softball team that was fortunate enough to enjoy a victory in its first game of the 2013 season.
But the Lady Trojans certainly made theirs the most dramatic.
North Hall rallied from a 2-1 deficit against Lanier by scoring four runs — three on passed balls — in the bottom of the sixth inning to win 5-2 and give Hall County teams one of their four victories on the first day of the Lanier Point Invitational on Friday at Lanier Point Park.
The Lady Trojans had trailed by one since the third inning, when they lost their initial 1-0 lead, but took advantage of erratic Lanier pitching in the sixth inning to pull ahead late after a tightly-matched contest with their Class AAAA foe. They loaded the bases with no outs, and misfires at the plate allowed Logan Savage to score the game-tying run, followed by another advance by Jordyn Porter on the same at-bat to give North Hall the lead.
Hayden Savage added an insurance run with a sliding play on another bad Lanier pitch to put the Lady Trojans up 4-2.
“Aggressive base running is something that we’ve worked on a lot this summer,” North Hall coach Brooke Russell said. “That’s been another big key thing of ours. That played a humongous part in that win.”
Carson McCormack, who ended up being walked from the passed balls, stole her way around the basepaths to third and tacked on the final run of the game on a sacrifice groundout by Kaitlyn Edwards.
“They never got down — they were always in the game,” Russell said. “They were talking to each other and communicating, which is a big thing we talked about in the offseason.”
Edwards pitched the sixth and seventh inning to earn the win for North Hall, which plays three more games today.
She escaped a jam in the top of the seventh inning, when Lanier loaded the bases with one out on a single and two subsequent walks. She popped up the next two batters to leave the game unscathed.
“You don’t win it without her fighting back,” Russell said. “She did a great job.”
North Hall’s win was the only Hall County victory of the day that didn’t end early due to mercy rule.
West Hall pounced on Oakwood rival Johnson for an 18-3 win in three innings, East Hall defeated Chestatee 13-1 in four innings and Flowery Branch took care of Commerce in five innings with a 13-2 win.
Tournament host Gainesville lost its first two games against Johns Creek and Duluth.
West Hall’s win marked the first victory for Adam Rich as the Lady Spartans’ head coach. He joined the team after spending the last six years in Florida.
“It’s a good start, we need a little a confidence,” Rich said. “You want to start the season with a win, and you want to start a tournament with a win. I like what I see, but of course we know we need to work on some things.”
West Hall batted around the order for a 6-0 lead through one inning, then did it again in the second for another 10 runs and a 16-0 lead.
Johnson answered in the third with its only three runs to keep the game alive, and the Lady Spartans sealed the win with Ashley Neal’s two-run single to reactivate the 15-run mercy rule.
“In a game like that, we get to play a lot of girls too, and get them in different spots,” Rich said.
East Hall won its game in similar fashion, with six runs in the first, four in the second and three in the third.
Flowery Branch took control of its game with a four-run fourth inning and a five-run fifth.
Union County mirrored North Hall’s winning formula and rallied from a 2-1 deficit by scoring twice in the bottom of the seventh with a walk-off, 3-2 win over Fannin County.
Lydia Arrowood scored the game-winning run while attempting to steal third, rounding the hot corner after the pickoff attempt by the Fannin County catcher sailed into the outfield.
Second-day action begins at 8 a.m. Saturday on all four fields.