The North Hall High softball team rolled to two big victories against Cedar Grove on Wednesday as it hosted the first round of the Class AAA state playoffs in Gainesville.
The Lady Trojans (15-9) move on to face the Worth County/Windsor Forest winner in the second round. Game time and location is still to be determined.
In Wednesday night’s concluding game, North Hall was able to put up eight runs in the first inning on the way to a 14-1 win, after winning the first 8-2.
“They did well,” said North Hall coach Brooke Russell. “We had to make some adjustments from the first game. They did and we hit the ball well and they just did what they were supposed to.”
Ohio State University commit Niki Carver walked to start the game. She was able to score on a wild pitch after a single from Carson Negley put her on third base.
Negley and Ashlyn Brewster scored on a two-run double by catcher Julian Garrett. Garrett scored on a ground out, fielder’s choice by Charli Shepheard.
Devan Imai hit into a fielder’s choice to score Macy Clark.
Then, with Kadie Sullens — who reached on a walk — and Imai on base, Carver delivered a three-run home run to left field to cap the eight-run inning.
“She always steps up when we need her at the plate,” Garrett said of Carver’s big hit.
After their big first inning, the Lady Trojans went on to put up five runs in the second inning with Brewster delivering the only hit of the inning — a lead-off single.
Brewster, Garrett, Clark, Shepheard and Camilla Howell all scored in the frame.
Garrett finished the night 3 for 6 with four runs scored, four RBIs and two doubles. Garrett said she attributes her night to sitting on the inside fastball, which she didn’t see a lot, but took advantage of when she did.
“She’s been an offensive leader for us all year long,” Russell said of her catcher. “She’s just gritty. She’s going to do what she’s got to do to move runners over. She’s going to do what she’s got to do to just get on base.”
The final run of the game for North Hall came in the top of the fourth as Carver hit a single to score Hailey Tanner from second. Tanner was the 10th different Lady Trojan to score a run in the game.
The lone run of the game for the Lady Saints came in the third inning with a two-out single leading to a pair of stolen bases. A wild pitch eventually brought the run across.
Shepheard put in all four innings of work in the circle in the second contest. She recorded five strikeouts, walked one and hit one batter. Shepheard was able to get started with first-pitch strikes to 10 of the 18 batters she faced.
The Lady Trojans were issued 10 walks from two different pitchers in the deciding game.
“We know the next team is going to be a lot harder,” Garrett said of moving on in the playoffs. “I hope this game did boost our confidence, but we have to know that it isn’t going to be that easy. It’s going to get a lot harder.”
NORTH HALL 8, CEDAR GROVE 2 (GAME 1): Carver tossed a gem for the Lady Trojans in the circle to pick up a complete-game victory.
Carver struck out 12 Lady Saints and started 16 of the 27 batters she faced with first-pitch strikes. She allowed two earned runs on three hits, two errors and a walk.
“She’s just done a great job overall this year,” Russell said about Carver’s performance. “We’ve asked a lot of her that I think she wasn’t expecting at the beginning of the season. She’s learned a lot about herself, but she’s done a great job.”
At the plate, North Hall was led by Garrett. She was 2 for 3 with two runs scored and a pair of RBIs, which she drove in on a sixth-inning double to score Brewster and Kennedy Olson.
Brewster was 2 for 2 hitting with two runs scored and one RBI.
Carver was 1 of 2 with Olson scoring two runs for her as a courtesy runner.
Shepheard recorded the other hit for the Lady Trojans as the team combined for six in the contest.
Kailee Dyer and Clark scored one run each for North Hall.