The Valdosta Daily Times
Hillgrove’s softball team ended Lowndes’ season with a two-game sweep in the first round of the state playoffs at the Morris-Coats Field of Dreams.
The Lady Hawks (26-8) won the first game 3-2, then completed the doubleheader sweep with a 5-3 win in the second game.
Lowndes ends its season 20-10.
Game 1: Hillgrove 3, Lowndes 2
Hillgrove took the lead with two runs in the top of the third, and Abby Evans shut out the Vikettes over the final six innings, giving the Lady Hawks a 3-2 win in Game 1.
Lowndes led 2-1 heading into the top of the third. Lowndes pitcher Tiffany Bishop retired the first two hitters, but then Rachel Jarvis singled to right and stole second. Abby Akins followed with a double to the fence in right, and Jarvis scored. Kia Lang reached on an infield single, then Michelle Forrester hit a ball that was just out of the reach of the shortstop, and Akins came home to give Hillgrove a 3-2 lead.
Evans made the lead stand up from there. The Vikettes had a runner on second in the fourth and a runner on first in the sixth, but couldn’t drive them in.
Lowndes’ best scoring chance in the later innings came in the seventh. Madison Floyd led off with a single to right, and courtesy runner LaGhia Woods stole second, putting the tying run two bases from home. But Evans retired the next three batters, and closed out the win for Hillgrove.
Hillgrove initially took the lead in the top of the first. Brittany Ferrell walked to lead off the game, then Jarvis lined a shot off of the top of the fence in left center. Ferrell was running on contact and scored from first, giving the Lady Hawks a 1-0 lead. Jarvis advanced to third on a ground out, but was stranded there when Bishop retired the next two batters.
Lowndes answered right back, scoring two runs in the bottom of the first. With one out, Chelsea Mefford reached on an infield single, then Becca Prairie lined a single out of the shortstop’s reach and into left field.
The runners advanced on Heather Robinson’s ground out to second. Then Kendall Holland ripped a double over the right fielder’s head. Mefford and Woods scored, giving the Vikettes the lead, 2-1.
Hillgrove regained the lead in the top of the third, and held it the rest of the game.
Evans pitched a complete game for Hillgrove, allowing two runs and four hits and striking out four. The Vikettes only managed one hit off of her in the final six innings.
Bishop pitched the first four innings, and allowed three runs and five hits. Krystal Eason went to the circle in the fifth and pitched three shutout innings.
Game 2: Hillgrove 5, Lowndes 3
Hillgrove scored three unearned runs in the top of the first, and took a lead it would not relinquish, on the way to a 5-3 win.
After Ferrell led off the game with a bunt single, Jarvis hit a potential double play ground ball to short. But the normally sure-handed Cara Parker couldn’t field the ball cleanly, and the Lady Hawks had two runners on. One out later, Kia Lang’s single to center loaded the bases.
Forrester hit a fly ball to right, and Ferrell tagged up and scored. Holland’s throw from right field was cut off by Floyd, who tried to throw Jarvis out at third. But the throw got away, and Jarvis ran home. Maddie Garner followed with an RBI single, giving Hillgrove a 3-0 lead.
Leading off the bottom of the first, Parker drilled a long fly ball over the right field fence for an opposite field home run, making it 3-1.
Forrester led off the third with a solo homer to center, giving Hillgrove a 4-1 lead.
In the top of the fifth, Lang walked to start the inning, took second on a wild pitch, stole third and scored on Katheryn Jackson’s two-out single to left, making it 5-1.
Lowndes had its chances to score throughout the game. But the Vikettes stranded runners at first and second in five of the first six innings. They left a total of 11 runners on base in game 2.
Down to their final three outs, Lowndes tried to rally in the bottom of the seventh. Prairie and Robinson started the inning with singles to right. With runners on the corners and one out, Floyd also singled to right, scoring Woods, who was running for Prairie.
At that point, Hillgrove coach Laura Voyles brought in Evans to pitch. Keeli Jackson drove in Robinson with a ground ball, making it 5-3. Lowndes had the tying run coming to the plate. But Evans got the next hitter to ground out to first to end the game, and the Vikettes’ season.
Taylor DeCelles, Hillgrove’s freshman southpaw, was the winning pitcher, allowing three runs and 12 hits in 6 1/3 innings and striking out three. Evans got the final two outs for the save.
Eason, Lowndes’ freshman southpaw, started the game and allowed four runs, only one of which was earned, and five hits in three innings. Bishop pitched the final four innings, allowing one run and one hit.