East Hall’s softball team is headed to the postseason for the first time in five seasons under coach Jenny Crow.
The Lady Vikings followed up their 2-1 win over North Hall on Monday afternoon with a 9-2 rout against White County on the first day of the Region 7-AAA tournament at the Lanier Point Softball Complex in Gainesville.
“We got the big hits when we needed them, our pitching was great and our defense was pretty good,” Crow said. “We did what we had to do and that was get two wins on our first day of region play.
“It feels really good. They work hard, they stay loose when they have to and they come ready to play ... We are pretty jacked so far. I don’t think they know they secured a state playoff spot yet.”
East Hall, which secured at least the No. 3 seed from Region 7-AAA, now faces top-ranked Buford in the winner’s bracket game tonight at 7 p.m.
The six-time reigning champion Lady Wolves routed West Hall, 15-2, and Banks County, 8-0, on Monday to advance in the winner’s bracket.
The trip the state playoffs has been a long journey for East Hall, which won just five games a season ago.
The journey was capped off on Monday with a pair of wins on the first day of a competitive region tournament.
In the game against White County, the Lady Vikings scored seven unearned runs off a pair of Lady Warrior errors and used a grand slam from Kali Turner to break open a tied game in the bottom of the sixth inning.
“We got big hits, they ran the bases well,” Crow said. “We had a lot of juniors step up to the plate.”
The run support was ample cushion for Vikings pitcher Natalie Winters in the circle. Winters pitched all seven innings for East Hall, allowing two runs (only one earned) on 10 hits, three that came in the second inning when she was able to get out of a bases-loaded jam.
In the top of the seventh, the senior Winters allowed two hits, but got out of the inning without damage, securing the Lady Vikings’ win and playoff berth.
“Natalie stepped up and did really well,” Crow said, of her pitcher. “She did great. We are going to miss her when she is gone.”
East Hall took a 1-0 lead in the first inning when Abby Black score on a single from Josie Coker.
White County tied it at 1-1 in the second inning when Mary Ann Luna scored on a single from Madison Taylor. East Hall regained the lead in the third before White County knotted it even at 2-2 in the fifth.
Then, with the game close and momentum hanging in the balance on nearly every pitch, the Lady Vikings broke the game open and secured a long-awaited playoff berth.
Makenzie Robinson reached base on a White County error to start the sixth inning.
Madison Brown singled to give the Lady Vikings runners at first and second base. Then, Eboni Burce laid down a sacrifice bunt to move the runners into scoring position and Allison Millwood reached base on an error that allowed Robinson to score from third base to put East Hall back in front.
Abby Black delivered an RBI single to score Brown and Chelsea Dale singled to load the bases for East Hall.
That’s when Turner delivered the grand slam, breaking open the game and making the score 7-2.
East Hall added another run later in the inning, when Emma House scored on a single from Brown.
In the win over White County, Black, Dale, Turner, Coker and Brown all finished with multiple hits, while seven Lady Viking batters scored runs in the win.
Now, East Hall faces the challenge of upending Buford, which won both meetings between the teams this season, by a combined score of 20-2.
“We just have to come out and get the big hits like we did (Monday),” Crow said. “Any little mistake that they have, we have to take advantage of it and take charge.
“Hopefully we will be able to.”
On Monday, Buford used solid pitching performances from Emily Crocker and Bria Bush to cruise past West Hall and Banks County. Crocker and Bush limited the opposing teams to a combined six hits, while Crocker recorded six strikeouts and Bush 10.
Niki Cook was 5 for 7 with three runs batted in and five runs scored between the two games, while Morgan Walters was 5 for 5 with two doubles, three RBIs and two runs scored.
Sydney Stavro was 2 for 3 with a triple and an RBI in the win over West Hall, while Drew Puckett was 2 for 2 with two RBIs and two runs scored.
Against Banks County, Remington Hasty was 2 for 4 with a pair of doubles, an RBI and a run scored, while Jordan Deep was 2 for 4 with an RBI. Tessa Daniels was 3 for 3.
Banks County beat Fannin County 5-4 and White County beat Dawson County 4-2 in the opening round on Monday.