HOSCHTON -- On a day when hits were plentiful for both No. 2 state-ranked Mill Creek and fourth-ranked Collins Hill in their Region 7-AAAAA battle, damage control was crucial.
Tori Mitchell and the Hawks were better at it, as the senior right-hander scattered 11 hits in going the distance, while Taylor Rogers drove in three runs with a pair of clutch, two-out hits to help Mill Creek come away with a 9-5 win Tuesday at The Hawks Nest.
Mitchell (8-1) gave up five runs -- two earned -- in her complete-game effort, through her best pitching may have come when Collins Hill scored all five of their runs in innings two through four.
"Those two-run innings in the third and fourth could've easily been three- or four-run innings," Mill Creek coach Roger Parham said after the Hawks (16-3-1, 7-1) increased their lead in the region to two games over the Eagles (13-4, 5-3) and Peachtree Ridge. "But we made timely defensive plays. We didn't panic. We did a nice job of keeping the ball in front of us and not letting the game get away from us.
"Tori did a great job of minimizing mistakes, pitching to contact and allowing her defense to help her."
The Mill Creek offense also helped her out in the bottom of the second after Collins Hill took a 1-0 lead on Ashleigh Simmons' RBI ground out in the top of the inning.
After the Hawks tied the game on an error on Alissa Stringer's infield grounder, Rogers lined a triple into the gap in right-center, scoring Lauren Bennett and courtesy runner Emily Robertson to put Mill Creek in front 3-1.
The Eagles answered in the third on Mckenzie Halstead's RBI single and an error to pull even at 3-3, but Mitchell wriggled out of further trouble by getting pinch-hitter Janae Horton to ground to third and leave the bases left loaded.
The Hawks jumped out in front again with a four-run bottom of the third, keyed by Anyssa Robles' two-run single and single RBIs by Breanna Buckley and Stringer, making the score 7-3, only to have Collins Hill get two of those runs back in the fourth on a pair of errors and Calli Star's RBI single.
But once again, Mitchell came up big by getting Alexandra Spell to fly out to right representing the tying run to keep the Mill Creek lead at 7-5.
"I just pitched with confidence because I knew I had the defense behind me," said Mitchell, who stranded six of Collins Hill's eight runners left on base in those three innings. "And it helped so much when we got some (runs) on the board. I was feeling a lot more confident. It felt so much better."
Those extra runs came with Stringer's sacrifice fly and Rogers' two-out, RBI bunt singe in the fifth, which made the score 9-5.
But the earlier escape act had already instilled enough confidence in Mitchell, who struck out just one hitter on the day, but walked only one, and retired nine of the last 11 hitters she faced -- helped by a nice double play in the fifth when third baseman Morgan Bell nagged Danielle Patterson's line drive and threw over to first to get Emily Buck, who had led off the inning with a single.
"Offensively, we had a few opportunities," Collins Hill coach Paul Pierce said. "But (Mill Creek) just made a few more plays than we did and scored a few more runs."
Buck did have a perfect 4-for-4 day for the Eagles, while Payton Wilson was 2-for-4 and Halstead and Star each had a hit and an RBI.
But Mill Creek answered with three hits and three runs scored by Bennett, plus two hits each from Rogers, Robles and Nikki Sagermann.