Mill Creek's Lauren Bennett turns a double play as Collins Hill's Mariah Dickey slides into second base during the Hawks 2-0 loss to the Eagles.
SUWANEE -- The No. 1 vs. 2 showdown lived up to the billing with the margin for success perhaps just a fingertip wide.
Top-ranked Collins Hill eked out a 2-0 win over Mill Creek, No. 2 behind the Eagles in Class AAAAA, before a large crowd Tuesday.
The first inning was crucial, top and bottom.
First, Collins Hill ace Kayla Floor struck out the side, all looking.
"She was a little excited," Eagles head coach Billy Dooley said. "She came out pumped and she had a grin on her face a lot of the game. When she's having fun and throwing like that, good things are going to happen."
After Floor rang up three quick outs, Collins Hill's speedy shortstop Christina Parham legged out a dribbling infield single. Aerika Miles got aboard and moved Parham over with a surgically placed bunt.
A sacrifice bunt from Brianna Cason pushed both runners into scoring position. Chelsea Littlejohn put the ball in play and was thrown out at first, but it gave Parham enough time to scamper home. She was ruled safe, sweeping around catcher Anyssa Robles and swiping her fingers across the plate.
Mill Creek head coach Roger Parham protested vigorously, but the 1-0 lead stood. It stood for another five innings until a throwing error allowed Collins Hill an insurance run.
"It was a great ballgame," Roger Parham said. "Floor did a great job on the mound and Coach Dooley made some adjustments on our hitters from the first time we played.
"Obviously I was disappointed we let that run slip across in the sixth because it just kind of changed the element of the seventh."
Mckenzie Halstead sparked the scoring opportunity in the sixth, getting a one-out infield single. Amber Hulsey ripped a shot through the gap at second, pushing pinch runner Mariah Dickey to second. With Shelley Sweatt batting, Dickey was off the bag and looking to run.
Robles tried to pick her off, but winged the ball into center. Dickey took off like a shot and rounded third without breaking stride to score.
"It wasn't a mistake-laden ballgame," Roger Parham said. "Everybody had opportunities. So from that standpoint, I was pleased with our kids. I was extremely proud of the girls and how they competed.
"They didn't blink and they weathered the early storm. We got out of that first inning with a straight number, not a crooked number and then we had our opportunities."
Floor and the Eagles' defense came up big against a Mill Creek team that beat them 4-1 in a meeting earlier this season.
Dangerous junior slugger Nikki Sagermann smashed a two-out double to the wall in the fourth and Floor got behind in the count to another big-hitting Hawk, Chandler Griffin. The unintentional intentional walk gave Mill Creek a good chance to tie the game. But Floor got Robles to pop out, ending the threat.
The Hawks also got something going in the sixth, starting with a lead-off single by Brittany Bass. But Sagermann ripped the ball right to Parham at short. The senior got the force at second and snapped a throw to first to get Sagermann for a huge double play.
"It was probably one of the best games we've played," Christina Parham said. "I think we did really well with our nerves. Everybody stayed under control and just worked really hard."
Floor ended the inning by ringing up Griffin on a third-strike fastball.
Then in the seventh, with a runner on, Floor got her sixth K of the game and Miles made a tough running catch in right to close out the win.
"It was a great game and every time we play them, I know exactly what we're going to get," Dooley said. "They're well-coached. They are as intense as they come. It's loud.
"Not to mention we're having the pink-out tonight. It's a great cause so you double the amount of people that were going to be here. I couldn't even hear myself think sometimes."
The game, which included special pink jerseys, was held in support of one of the mothers in the Collins Hill program who is battling cancer.
"Our parents did all this," Dooley said. "The girls really rallied behind it. We had a ton of people here and everything we did is going for a good cause."