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East Hall splits first 2 against Cartersville in first-round softball playoff series
Game 3 at 4 p.m. Thursday at East Hall Park
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East Hall’s Natalie Winters delivers a pitch against Cartersville during Game 1 of the opening round of the Class AAA softball playoffs on Wednesday at East Hall Park. - photo by Jared Putnam

After nearly five hours and two evenly-match softball games, East Hall’s first-ever playoff appearance is still alive against Cartersville.

On Wednesday, the Lady Vikings (17-18) won the first game 2-1 in eight innings, but lost the nightcap 9-6 in the best-of-three series in Gainesville.

“I’m exhausted right now,” said East Hall’s Kali Turner, who homered in Game 1 and singled twice in the second game. “I’m not going to even eat when I get home tonight.

“I’ll probably just go straight to sleep.”

The third and deciding game of the series is again at the East Hall Park at 4 p.m. today.

“I’m super proud of these girls,” East Hall coach Jenny Crow said. “They just have to keep their heads up and come out ready to play (today).”

The winner advances to host Oconee County, who swept Woodward Academy during the first round, in another best-of-three playoff series next Wednesday.

East Hall pulled out the Game 1 victory thanks to extra-inning heroics with a walk-off single from Josie Coker, along with a strong pitching performance from senior Natalie Winters.

Per international tiebreaker rules, East Hall started the home half of the eighth with courtesy runner Makayla Wilson on second base.

After a one-out single from Abby Black to put runners on the corners, Turner drew a walk to load the bases.

For her part, Winters pitched out of some tough jams in Game 1 to keep the score tied at 1-1 for the final three innings.

After Cartersville loaded the base in the sixth inning with no outs, Winters retired the next three hitters in order.

Cartersville put two on with two outs in the seventh inning, but Turner tracked down a fly ball from her position at shortstop moving to the left behind third base for the final out.

Cartersville left eight runners on base over the course of the final three innings.

Cartersville took an early lead in the fourth inning with Mallory Jackson’s one-out, solo home run. Turner tied it up in the bottom of the inning with a solo shot deep over the left field fence.

CARTERSVILLE 9, EAST HALL 6: The Lady Purple Hurricanes rallied back from a 5-1 hole with five runs after two outs were recorded in the fourth inning.

Two runs scored after a fly ball off the bat of Mallory Jackson wasn’t caught in the outfield by the Lady Vikings. Next, Kennedy Bailey stepped to the plate and delivered a three-run homer, putting Cartersville ahead 6-5.

Then in the fifth inning, Cartersville pitcher Annalyn Yantis connected on a leadoff home run. The Lady Purple Hurricanes added two more runs with two outs on a single off the bat of Hunter Irvin.

Cartersville scored eight of its runs with two outs in the inning in Game 2.

“We had a hard, emotional first game,” Crow said. “It was going to be tough for the girls not to lose some steam after that.”

East Hall scored one run in the sixth after Turner grounded out and Chelsea Dale scored from second after her leadoff double.

In the seventh inning, the Lady Vikings sent the tying run to the plate. The final out of the game was recorded when Turner drove a fly ball to deep left center field and Cartersville’s Kailah Rain made a sliding catch near the gap.

Madison Brown opened the final inning with a leadoff single for the Lady Vikings, and moved to third with Erika Lopez’s double.

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