Staff Photo: John Bohn Collins Hill pitcher Kayla Floor (1) leads her team out of the dugout to greet teammate McKenzie Halstead at home plate. Halstead hit a 3-run home run during the first inning against North Gwinnett in a softball game Tuesday.
Staff Photo: John Bohn Collins Hill baserunner Allie Spell leaps to avoid the ball while North Gwinnett shortstop Lacy Najafi fields the ball during the first inning of a softball game played Tuesday. Spell was out at third base.
Staff Photo: John Bohn Collins Hill baserunner Emily Buck (12) scores from third base on an RBI single teammate Brea Dickey during the first inning against North Gwinnett in a softball game played Tuesday. North Gwinnett catcher Moriah Strother awaits the late throw to home.
Staff Photo: John Bohn Collins Hill pitcher Kayla Floor pitches against North Gwinnett in a softball game played Tuesday.
SUWANEE -- Heading into Tuesday's game at North Gwinnett, it had been almost a month since Kayla Floor had taken to the pitching circle for Collins Hill after sitting out with a leg injury.
After she threw four shutout innings, it was like she had never left.
The defending Daily Post Pitcher of the Year also got plenty of help as the No. 4 state-ranked Eagles pounded out 11 hits -- two each from Mckenzie Halstead, Calli Star and Brea Dickey -- to roll to an 11-3 victory in a key Region 7-AAAAA game at Lady Bulldogs Park.
The win gives the Eagles (14-4, 6-3) sole possession of second place in the region race, while North (13-8, 6-4) maintained a share of third place with Peachtree Ridge, which fell to Duluth on Tuesday.
"It's good to have her back," Collins Hill coach Paul Pierce said of Floor (5-2), who hadn't pitched since an extra-inning loss to region leader Mill Creek on Aug. 24. "Obviously, she means a lot to our program. She's been wanting to throw. We've been erring on the side of caution to make sure she doesn't have any hiccups.
"Momentum is always good to have on your side, and we were able to get a little 'mo' on our side early."
That early momentum was provided when Halstead followed back-to-back walks by Brittany Roley and Payton Wilson to lead off the game by hammering an 0-2 pitch over the fence in straightaway center for a home run that gave Collins Hill a 3-0 lead.
That lead grew to 4-0 by the end of the top of the first, thanks to Dickey's two-out, RBI single, which gave Floor a nice lead to play with, and plenty of confidence as she tried to find her command.
She seemed to do so quickly, throwing four shutout innings, allowing only singles to Kendall McKinney in the first and Tori Prince in the fourth, while striking out four.
"The leg feels amazing right now. I'm actually really happy to be back," the Georgia State-bound right-hander said. "It helped a lot big time (getting the early lead). I was pretty excited."
The lead grew incrementally to 6-0 after Star's RBI double in the second and Alexandra Spell's RBI single in the fourth before Collins Hill blew the game wide open in the top of the fifth.
The Eagles erupted for five more runs in the inning, keyed by Wilson's RBI infield single, Halstead's RBI double and Star's two-run homer, which pushed the lead to 11-0.
But North didn't quit despite the big deficit.
With Floor given the rest of the night off, the Bulldogs reached freshman Mandy Chance for five hits in the bottom of th fifth, with the big blow being Moriah Strother's two-run homer.
However, the Eagles were still able to end the game on the run-rule when Wilson alertly came over from first base position and tagged out Hannah Harrison trying to score from second on a wild pitch for the final out of the game.
"It was kind of rough," North coach Randy Black said. "The second time through (the order), we hit (the ball) hard. Our kids didn't quit. That's one thing. We showed some heart. But I'll tell you what, they (Collins Hill) have a good ball club."