Eagles outpunch Hawks for series-opening win

HOSCHTON -- If Game 1 of the Region 7-AAAAA softball championship series between Collins Hill and Mill Creek is any indication of things to come, then hang on for a wild ride.

The top two seeds in the region went toe-to-toe Tuesday night at the Hawks Nest as Collins Hill held on for a 10-8 win in the opening game of the best-of-three series to decide the region crown.

A combined total of 18 runs, 32 hits and 19 runners left on base told the story of this shootout.

It looked like Collins Hill would run away and hide after the Eagles built a 6-1 lead after two innings, but Mill Creek battled back and eventually tied the game at 7-7 after four innings.

However, Collins Hill showed why this program has won two straight state titles as the Eagles put two runs on the board in the top of the fifth and then added an insurance run in the top of the seventh -- all while starting pitcher Kayla Floor limited Mill Creek to just one run over the final three innings to notch the win.

"Our girls battle and we like to create some havoc offensively," said Collins Hill head coach Paul Pierce. "We feel good about winning tonight. But we know Mill Creek is a good team and well-coached and they'll be excited about coming back the next game (on Thursday). Like I told the girls, we haven't won a thing. We've got to go to work, have some fun and get after it."

Collins Hill got things going in the top of the first with three runs, thanks to some shaky Mill Creek defense as the Hawks committed two errors in the inning.

Collins Hill added on in the second with three more runs as Mckenzie Halstead homered to left field for a 6-0 lead and knock Mill Creek starting pitcher Tori Mitchell out of the game.

But Mill Creek began to chip away as the Hawks got one run in the bottom of the second and then added four more in the third to cut the Collins Hill lead to 6-5.

Anyssa Robles hit a solo homer in the second and the Hawks got consecutive two-out hits from Nikki Sagermann, Chandler Griffin, Lauren Bennett and Robles to narrow the gap to one run heading to the fourth.

After Collins Hill got a single run in the top of the fourth, Mill Creek plated a pair of runs and finally caught the Eagles at 7-7 in the bottom half of the inning.

Run-scoring hits from Jenna Holland and Sagermann chased home Breanna Buckley and Alissa Stringer, respectively.

"I was so proud of the way our girls fought back after we let the game get away from us with those six runs early when we had some unfortunate things happen to us," said Mill Creek head coach Roger Parham. "We came back against one of the premier pitchers in the state (Floor).

"We never gave up, never lost focus. We just have to stay away from giving away those early innings like that."

Collins Hill regrouped and regained the lead for good in the top of the fifth when Calli Star doubled home Brittany Roley and Emily Buck's ground-out got Halstead home for a 9-7 lead.

After Buckley's RBI single scored Bennett in the bottom half of the fifth for Mill Creek to cut the Collins Hill advantage to 9-8, Floor held the Hawks at bay the rest of the way to secure the win for the Eagles.

Halstead added an RBI single in the top of the seventh to score Payton Wilson for the Eagles' final run of the game.