On a night when North Hall High’s softball team honored its seven seniors, a sophomore from West Hall stole the show.
Miranda Miller struck out five batters and threw a complete game, one-hit shutout and knocked in the lone run of the game on an RBI single in the third inning to lead the Lady Spartans (16-10, 8-2 Region 7-AAA) to 1-0 win over the Lady Trojans (9-12-1, 4-6) on Tuesday at North Hall.
"She was throwing hard and hitting her spots," West Hall coach Warren Sellers said of Miller.
"She did what she needed to do," North Hall coach Bruce King added. "Her defense supported her well."
Miller played a part in that defensive support by inducing four groundouts to the pitcher’s circle.
"Give West Hall credit," King said. "They made all the plays."
No play was bigger than Jessica Manrique’s in the bottom of the fifth. With a runner on second and two outs, North Hall’s Mallory Rich, who doubled in her previous at bat, came to the plate. Rich slapped a hard grounder down the first base line that was snagged by Manrique, who stepped on the bag to end the scoring threat.
North Hall also got some defensive help in the third inning, when shortstop Kelsey Gibbs made an over-the-shoulder catch in short left field with two outs and runners on second and third. One of those runners was Miller, who drove in Emily Hammond for the game’s only run earlier in the inning.
"It’s not how many hits, but how you get ‘em," said Sellers, whose team had five hits off North Hall starter Megan Rogers, who pitched a complete game with five strikeouts.
"That was another outstanding effort by Megan," King said.
Rogers’ most impressive inning came in the fifth when West Hall’s Victoria Tuttle led off with an infield hit and moved to third on a one-out single by Madison Strickland. Rogers got the next two batters to pop out to end the inning.
North Hall threatened in the seventh by getting a runner to third base, but Miller induced a groundout to end the game.
"That’s kind of the way things have been going for us," King said. "We got a monkey on our back right now.
"We’re frustrated and I’m disappointed for our seniors," he added. "But the girls have competed and this year has been a test of their character and they haven’t thrown in the towel."
Both coaches know mental toughness will play a role in success at the region tournament that begins Monday.
"There’s no easy games left for us," said Sellers, whose team will end the regular season with a visit to Gilmer at 5:55 tonight. "You hope you peak at the right time and hopefully that’s what we’re doing."
King thinks the same, and despite his team losing four of their six region games by one run, he has confidence in the Lady Trojans.
"I wouldn’t want to play us come tournament time," he said.
North Hall has two regular season games remaining starting with tonight when it plays host to Lambert.