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Broncos come back to win 2nd region crown

SNELLVILLE -- Comeback was the theme of the day in Thursday's finals of the Region 8-AAAAA softball tournament at Brookwood.

The host Broncos ultimately pulled off the most important comeback by working through the elimination bracket to take their second straight tournament championship with a pair of victories.

But Grayson wasn't about to make it easy for them.

Facing deficits in both games, the Rams managed to put the tying runs in scoring position in the bottom of the seventh both times.

However, clutch pitching by Brandi Jones and Rachel Hill helped Brookwood hang on, first for a 7-5 win in the opener and withstanding a stretch of nine unanswered runs for a 10-9 victory in the nightcap to claim the title.

"I never would've thought that many runs would've been scored," Broncos coach Bill Batchelor said after his team improved to 28-6 on the season and advanced to play West Forsyth in the first round of the state playoffs. "I thought it would be close, but ... everybody was seeing the ball well for both teams. It was just two great games."

Brookwood pounded out 28 hits in the two games, and struck early and often, with all 17 of the Broncos' runs coming in the first three innings of each game.

They actually faced an early deficit after striking for two first-inning runs in Game 1, as Grayson (18-11) answered with four of its own, highlighted by Savanna Burkhiser's three-run triple, to take a 4-2 lead.

But Brookwood had its own answer with five more runs, with Megan Litumbe's two-run double and an RBI single by Jones being the big blows, to regain the lead at 7-4.

The pitching then settled down the rest of the way, with Grayson's Kanani Cabrales shutting down Brookwood over the final five innings and Hill holding the Rams scoreless over the next four before giving way to Jones, who took the three-run lead into the seventh.

There, Grayson tried to rally as an error and singles by Burkhiser and Kylie Klim cut Brookwood's lead to 7-5, and both moved into scoring position on a passed ball with two outs.

But Jones got Alex Sexton to pop up to second, and Jessica Neidigh made a nifty scoop on Taylor Denton's chopper to short and got the speedy leadoff hitter at first for the final out and force a second game.

Once again, Brookwood struck with early thunder, and again, Litumbe and Jones had the biggest hits.

Jones' two-run double highlighted a three-run first and Litumbe belted a three-run homer in the second to give their team an early 6-0 lead.

That lead reached 10-0, and the Broncos seemed about to the end the game on the run rule in the fifth.

But a bad-hop single off the bat of pinch hitter Courtney Lee and two errors opened the door for Grayson, and the Rams kicked it in with an RBI single by Rachel McElroy and a two-run double by Breanna Etheridge that cut the Brookwood lead to 10-5.

And in the seventh, after Cabrales' RBI triple pulled Grayson to within 10-6, the Broncos seemed to have the game in hand again on an infield grounder with two outs.

But another error scored a run, and Lee came up with a two-run triple after a walk to pull the Rams to within 10-9 and represent the tying run just 60 feet away.

However, Jones induced a grounder to second that Taylor Sexton fielded cleanly and threw on to first to end the game.

"I'm real proud of them," Grayson coach Jennifer Edwards said of the Rams, who will play host to Roswell in the first round of state. "A lot of teams would've rolled over and died, and that shows a lot of heart and a lot of pride."