East Hall softball coach Josh Joiner has some promises to keep after his crew captured what he called their most significant win in the program’s history at the conclusion of Wednesday’s Region 7-AAA Championship at North Hall High School.
The outcome was rarely in doubt as the Lady Vikings claimed their first-ever league title outright by an 8-0 shutout of the Lady Trojans.
The Vikings (18-10) also locked down the region’s top seed for the Class AAA playoffs with the win and return home to host their first-round game Oct. 12. The Region 7-AAA runner-up Lady Trojans secured a home playoff game for the first-round as the No. 2 seed.
As promised, Joiner will be welcoming the electric razor pretty soon. The second-year skipper will sport a buzzed head by Friday as an incentive for his players winning the title. It’s the least he can do for a determined bunch that set out to accomplish that goal from the very first day of practice this year.
East Hall came into the championship losers of the first two contests against North Hall (13-9), including an 8-0 loss by mercy rule on Sept. 22. Joiner said it only made it that much sweeter for his team to be able to return the favor.
The Trojans’ fanbase grew silent as they watched second baseman Kaitlyn Daniel field the final ground ball and fire to her first baseman Peyton Turner for the routine out. It elicited a slew of Viking cheers, and the visitors rushed the field in celebration.
“It speaks a lot to the girls’ character that we have on this team,” said the second-year head coach. “They grinded it out all year, this was our goal from the very first day of practice. So I couldn’t be more proud of them.”
The entire Lady Vikings batting order totaled eight hits off of North Hall pitcher and Ohio State commit Niki Carver (7 IP, 3 K’s, four walks), who battled a left ankle injury she sustained on a hard slide to second base in the bottom of the first.
North Hall coach Brooke Russell is still confident the senior will be ready to go for the playoffs. Carver was 1 for 3 with a first-inning leadoff single from the plate.
For every big win throughout the season, it has been a different player to come through for East Hall according to Joiner.
In their semifinal game against Union County, it was Steffanie Redmon with a home run, double and three RBI’s in the 6-1 victory. On this night, it was Daniel who was responsible for driving in the first four runs. Daniel (3 for 4, four RBI’s, run scored) put the Vikings on the board in the top of the first inning with a high-fly double roped to left-center field, scoring Carley Cox (1 for 4, RBI) and courtesy runner Katie Wilson. Daniel took one to almost the exact same spot in her next plate appearance, only this time it cleared the fence for a one-out, two-run homer -- her second of the season -- to bring the score to 4-0 in the top of the third.
Macy Banks gave the Vikings’ their fifth run in the top of the fifth, scoring from third on a throwing error by the catcher with the bases loaded. Cox and Lopez (1 for 4, 2 RBI) plated the final three runs to seal it for East Hall in the top of the seventh on back-to-back hits, Lopez splitting the outfielders with a double to left-center to score.
Viking’s starting pitcher Redmon hasn’t seen much action from the mound this season, but was another to make the most of her latest start and keep a talented Trojans batting order off balance.
Redmon’s first strikeout of the game got the Vikings out of mini jam with one runner at second in the bottom of the first. She concluded her complete-game showing with four strikeouts, two walks and only four hits allowed.
“I couldn’t have asked for her to be more of a warrior out there today,” Joiner said. “In a championship game, she wanted to be a champion and she did it. That’s it.”
In spite of the loss, Russell still see’s a No. 2 playoff seeding as a huge opportunity for her team. The Trojans defeated Lumpkin County, 8-2, to earn a spot in the regional final.
“We’ll get to host the first round of the state playoffs, so that’s big,” Russell said. “We faced a lot of adversity as a team this year with injuries, and things like that. But this is just a minor bump in the road. It does nothing as far as what we’re still able to do in the future, so I have confidence in the girls and what we’re gonna do as we continue on.”