christian.malone@gaflnews.com



VALDOSTA -- The gap is closing in Region 1-AAAAA softball between the powers from Winnersville and the rest of the region.

That was made clear Thursday, when region champion Lowndes High had to hang on against Tift County, and Valdosta High found itself in a scoreless battle with Coffee.

Valdosta, like its rivals across town, did win 2-1, but not without a scare.

"That was close," a relieved Valdosta head coach Peggy Parramore said afterwards. "We're glad to get the win. Coffee's improved; they're a good ballclub."

Valdosta is now 5-3 in the region, sitting in second place, and in control of its own playoff fate.

The game was an excellent pitchers' duel between Katie Walthall of Valdosta and Haley Davis of Coffee. Both right-handers blanked the opposition for the first five innings. Walthall then blanked Coffee in the top of the sixth.

Valdosta knew it had to score to win. The Lady Wildcats also knew they had their best hitters coming to the plate in the bottom of the sixth.

Jordan Thomas worked the count and drew a walk from Davis to open the sixth. Then Tamara Petersen laid down a sacrifice bunt. Petersen's speed made it a bang-bang play at first, except that first baseman Sally Brown dropped Davis' throw. When the ball rolled away, Thomas raced into third base, with Petersen taking second on the throw to third.

Courtney Ruttinger came to the plate, and grounded to third. Thomas went safely back into third, and the bases were loaded.

Whitney Buescher then lifted a pop-up to second base, but it was dropped by Coffee second baseman Jessica Moore, and Thomas raced home with the go-ahead run. Ruttinger was tagged out at second, but Petersen took third. Cleanup hitter Jill Courson then hit a long fly ball into foul territory that Coffee left fielder Tiffany Walker slid and caught. It was an out, but it also allowed Petersen to tag up and score easily, giving the Wildcats a 2-0 lead.

Coffee, in what could be its final inning of the season, refused to go down quietly. Brown was hit by Walthall's first pitch, then stole second. Valdosta's senior right-hander then struck out Yachika McAllister on three pitches, and got Sara Wood to ground weakly to first. Saderia Robinson hit the ball into right field, and beat Angela Marafino's throw to first, allowing Brown to score. Robinson stole second, then Anna Evans reached on an error.

The tying run stood on third, and Coffee's best player, Davis, was coming to the plate. Davis swung at a pitch, and lifted a high pop-up to second baseman Katherine Bentley. Bentley caught the ball, and the win was Valdosta's.

Walthall allowed just three hits, striking out six. Davis allowed just two hits.

"Katie pitched a good game," Parramore said. "This was a big win."



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