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North grabs momentum, region title with doubleheader sweep

SUWANEE -- After No. 4 state-ranked Peachtree Ridge had taken momentum with a win in Game 1 of the Region 7-AAAAAA softball championship series a day earlier, North Gwinnett seized it late during Game 2 on Thursday, and never relinquished it.

Kinsley Jennings' sixth-inning grand slam broke a scoreless tie and sent the host Bulldogs to 6-2 victory to force a third and deciding game.

And that momentum carried over to Ashley Stephan's two-run home run in the first inning of Game 3, which set the table for a 5-1 win that gave North the sweep and the region title.

"I think the kids made their momentum," North coach Randy Black said after the Bulldogs (20-6-2) earned the region's top seed in the upcoming Class AAAAAA state playoffs. "(Jennings') grand slam was big. ... And I think (momentum) did carry over into (Game 3)."

It took until late in Thursday's opener for North to establish momentum as Jennings (11-0) and Peachtree Ridge's Quinn Hall (13-3) battled each other pitch-for-pitch through the first 5 scoreless innings.

But an error on Mallory Koepke's leadoff grounder in the top of the sixth opened the door, and the Bulldogs cashed in when Moriah Strother drew a one-out walk and Draven Sonnon singled to left to load the bases.

That brought up Jennings, who jumped on the first offering she saw and sent a liner to center that eluded centerfielder Sam Pierannunzi and cleared the fence for the grand slam that gave North a 4-0 lead.

Stephan and Alaina Hall each added an RBI single, and by the time the inning ended, the Bulldogs had a 6-0 lead.

Peachtree Ridge (22-5) wouldn't quit as the Lions, who had been limited to three hits until that point, got to Jennings for back-to-back solo homers from Kayla Jones and Savanna Turvy in the bottom of the seventh to pull to within 6-2.

But Jennings stayed composed and retired the final two outs to close out North's win and force the deciding game.

And it was in the first of Game 3 that momentum could have shifted again after Maiah Johnson legged out an infield hit, stole second and advanced to third with one out in the top of the first.

But Hannah Harrison bore down to strike out Sara Walker, and then got some help from her defense when Katie Black knocked down Jones' bullet up the middle and threw on to first for the out to get North out of the inning unscathed.

Stephan then made sure North kept a stranglehold on momentum when she followed Kendall McKinney's two-out single in the bottom of the inning with a two-run blast to give the Bulldogs an early 2-0 lead.

"That's a good team," Peachtree Ridge coach Bubba Wilson said of North. "They've got a tough lineup to get through. ... I thought we regrouped in between games and were ready to play. But (North) getting two runs early sets the tone a little differently."

The Bulldogs then added to their lead on a pair of Peachtree Ridge errors for a single run in the fourth, and then Stephan's RBI single and a double steal by courtesy runner Megan Kimble and McKinney in the fifth to make the score 5-0.

Still, Peachtree Ridge wouldn't go away, with Pierannunzi belting a solo homer in the sixth, and then getting one last chance to pull the Lions even closer in the seventh.

Walks to Hill and LeAnn Davis, plus Brandi Mason's infield hit loaded the bases for Pierannunzi, who had two hits in Thursday's opener and had hit the ball hard two other times besides her homer in the nightcap.

This time, the senior got under an offering from Harrison (6-3) and sent a towering fly ball to left that was snagged by McKinney for the second out.

Hill tagged up and started down the line toward the plate hoping to draw a throw before retreating to third, but McKinney alertly threw behind her, and Amanda Shimmin was waiting to apply the tag to end the game, and secure North's first region title in eight years.

"We've won the regular season championship five or six times over the last eight years," Black said. "Then we'd get into the (tournament) and we (let it slip away). So, this feels real good."

Stephan led the Bulldogs at the plate for the day, going 3-for-4 with the homer and four RBIs, while McKinney and Koepke each had two hits in the nightcap to back a strong outing for Harrison, who gave up just five hits and the one earned runs with eight strikeouts in seven innings.

Pierannunzi finished the day 3-for-6 with the homer, while Johnsone was 4-for-5 with two stolen bases.

Comments

Gary 1 year, 6 months ago

Congratulations to the Lady Bulldog Varsity Girls Fast Pitch Softball Team for winning the Region 7-6AAAAAA Championship Thursday night! Definitely a team win, with everyone contributing! Applause to everyone involved with the team on not letting Wednesday night discouraging loss affect your play on Thursday night. Good luck in the state championships. Go Lady Bulldogs!

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