SUWANEE -- It was a long, wild day for Peachtree Ridge, but the end result had head coach Bubba Wilson all smiles.
The Lions came into Tuesday's Region 7-AAAAA tournament at North Gwinnett riding a three-game losing streak, but wins over Mountain View and Duluth turned the season around for Peachtree Ridge.
The two wins not only advanced the Lions (18-12) to today's third-place game against North Gwinnett, but it also punched their ticket to the upcoming Class AAAAA state tournament.
The opening game against Mountain View was a wild one as the Bears scored eight runs in the top of the first, only to have the Lions bounce back with 10 in the bottom half en route to a 21-9 decision.
That pitted the Lions against Duluth, who earlier fell 2-0 to North, in an elimination game. That contest was a much different affair, as runs were at a premium with the Lions scratching out a 2-1 win over the Wildcats.
"Our day started out down by eight runs in the first," Wilson said. "That really says something about our girls."
Peachtree Ridge's Sarah Walker and Duluth's Jeanie Perrucci locked horns in the night cap, with Walker getting just enough run support.
Perrucci, who pitched well in the 2-0 loss to North, was strong again against the Lions, allowing two runs on five hits with five strikeouts.
Walker's numbers were nearly identical with one run on four hits and six strikeouts. With both pitchers dealing, the turning point came down to defense.
The game's best defensive play came when Duluth senior Casey Nellums led off the bottom of the fourth by smacking what looked to be a sure double in the gap to left center, but center fielder Sam Perrannunzi got a great jump on the ball and made a spectacular diving catch in the gap to rob Nellums.
"She was like a ball magnet out there tonight," Duluth head coach Dawn Marsh said of Perrannunzi. "Their pitcher also pitched well and that's another reason why we didn't get as many hits as we did."
The Lions scored first when Kayla Jones led off the second inning with a double on what would otherwise had been a routine fly to left, reaching second when her fly ball was lost in the fading sunlight.
Ashley Sawdey followed with a single to left to plate Jones, giving the Lions a 1-0 lead.
"The thing that hurt us tonight was the ball hit to left field," Duluth head coach Dawn Marsh said. "That play really hurt us."
The lead was stretched to 2-0 in the fifth when Walker led off the frame with a bloop single to left. Perrucci retired the next two hitters on a sacrifice bunt and a pop foul to first, but couldn't set down Brandi Mason as she singled to center.
The Wildcats (19-12) answered in the bottom of the fifth, getting lead off double from Toni Perrucci. Jessica Brown, who finished 2-for-3, singled in the hole to left with one out to push home Perrucci and cut the score to 2-1.
Duluth also had a chance in the bottom of the seventh when Reina Sycamore reached on single and advanced to second on ground out by Brown, but was left stranded when Lauren Blanco flied out to Pierannunzi to end the game.
"There's not going to be a better play than that," Wilson said of Pierannunzi's catch in the fourth. "You can't ask for any more effort than that and it's refreshing to see a girl lay it out on the line like that."
The Lions will play at North Gwinnett today against North at 4 p.m. for third place in the region.North 2, Duluth 0North Gwinnett extended its season on Tuesday with a 2-0 win over Duluth, putting the Bulldogs in the Class AAAAA state tournament.
Pitcher Alaina Hall set a new career high in strikeouts with 14 as she shut out the Wildcats, giving up just three hits with no walks.
She also had a hand in both runs as she drove in one and later scored on a hit by Tori Prince in the fourth inning.
North will play Peachtree Ridge today at North at 4 p.m for third place in the region.