SUWANEE - Alex McDavid and the North Gwinnett softball team both came up big in the clutch in Tuesday's key Region 7-AAAAA game against Collins Hill.
The sophomore right-hander threw a complete-game three-hitter and delivered the go-ahead RBI in a three-run fifth inning as the No. 7 ranked Bulldogs upended the fourth-ranked Eagles 4-1 at North.
The victory was particularly big for North (9-2-1, 2-0), which has posted wins over Collins Hill and top-ranked Peachtree Ridge in its last two outings to give itself a strong early position in the region race.
"Those are the two teams, along with Mill Creek, that have been traditionally the strongest in our region," North coach Randy Black said. "We've been fortunate enough to beat them both. Those are big to start off our region schedule."
McDavid (5-0) was the Bulldogs' biggest key, limiting Collins Hill (8-2, 1-1) to just three hits and recording nine strikeouts in seven innings of work.
She got some help when North manufactured a run with the help of Brittany Broome's speed in the third.
The senior left fielder not only beat out an infield hit with one out, but kept going and stole second before time was called, then went to third on a groundout and came home on a wild pitch to put the Bulldogs up 1-0.
That lead, however, lasted all of three pitches in the top of the fourth as Sammy Lenahan rifled McDavid's 1-1 offering over the fence just to the right of straightaway center to lead off the inning, and pulling Collins Hill even at 1-1.
But that was all McDavid would give up as she set down the next three Eagles batters in order, then wriggled out of trouble in the fifth and seventh innings.
"I like the way (McDavid) came back after (the home run)," Black said. "She struck out the next hitter, who is a tremendous hitter. That right there could've been a turning point."
McDavid was at the center of what turned out to be the turning point in the bottom of the fifth, which began innocently enough when Kasey Hawkshead (3-1) retired the first two North hitters in order.
But Sammie Rao drew a four-pitch walk and moved to second when Lexi Anderson drove a single through the hole between shortstop and third base to put runners on first and second for McDavid.
Following Anderson's example, the Bulldogs pitcher steered another hit through the hole on the left side of the Collins Hill infield and Rao beat leftfielder Rachel Logan's throw to the plate to put North back in front 2-1.
"I usually pull everything," McDavid said. "So, I had confidence in myself that if I hit it that way, I could get it through."
Kristin Hall then capped the inning by blasting a two-run double to center to push the Bulldogs' lead to 4-1 and McDavid pitched around a leadoff walk and a two-out error to retire Danielle Almeida as the tying run at the plate in the top of the seventh to put the game away.
Rao finished the game with two of North's hits and Broome was 1-for-2 with two stolen bases, while all but two of the Bulldogs' starters reached base at least once, which is what Collins Hill coach Billy Dooley say makes them so tough.
"They hit," Dooley said of the Bulldogs. "I knew coming in they were one of the best-hitting teams we're going to face.
"Give all the credit to (North's) hitters. They didn't get cheap hits. ... They hit it where we weren't."