Photo: Karl L. Moore Brookwood outfielder Ansley Jones (10) makes the sliding catch for the out against Lassiter in the final game of the series Thursday evening in the Class AAAAAA softball state playoffs at Brookwood.
SNELLVILLE -- It doesn't take much effort to figure out the key moment in Game 3 of Brookwood's first-round Class AAAAAA state playoff series with Lassiter.
A missed opportunity for the No. 7 state-ranked Broncos in the top of the first was followed by one that fifth-ranked Lassiter capitalized on in the bottom of the inning.
Both set the tone for Lassiter's 8-0 win Thursday at Brookwood, which gave the Trojans (28-5-1) a 2-1 series victory and send them into a second round matchup with Peachtree Ridge next week.
"When you don't score (early in an elimination game), it doesn't matter if it's one run or 100 runs you're down," Brookwood coach Bill Batchelor said after his team's season ended at 23-12. "If you don't score, you're not going to win."
The Broncos had a golden opportunity to score and jump out to the early lead Thursday, especially after Lassiter's Mackenzie Kayler hit Taiylor Rinehart with the first pitch of the game, and Megan Litumbe and Mandy Blackwell followed with singles to load the bases with nobody out.
But the inning turned when Amanda Ablan sent a grounder to third that Kelly Sinclair fielded before throwing home to get the force out at the plate. Catcher Sammi Green then quickly fired a strike to get Ablan on a close play at first for the double play, and Kayler got Ansley Jones to ground out to short to end the inning with the game still scoreless.
If that turn of events didn't send momentum Lassiter's way, the course of the bottom of the inning did after Ablan (13-4) retired the first two Trojan hitters.
Kayler then sent a grounder deep into the hole between third and short that Sam Leach was able to field, but was unable to throw in time to get the hustling Lassiter pitcher, who legged out the infield single.
With the inning still alive, Veronica Ulicny launched a 2-2 offering from Alban deep to left-center that hit off the top of the wall and fell over for a two-run home run to give the Trojans a 2-0 lead.
"If we score (in the top of the first), it changes the ball game," Batchelor said.
"But we didn't, and we kept fighting, and we've got to tip our hat to Lassiter. They were the better team (Thursday)."
It wasn't the only time Lassiter would mount a rally with two outs and nobody on base, as Elise Sandberg reached on what seemed to be a harmless two-out single in the bottom of the fourth.
Even when the Trojans' right fielder advanced to second and then third on two wild pitches, and Sarah Breitbach went to second following a walk and a stolen base, Ablan looked in good shape to get out of the inning by getting ahead of Murphy Davis in the count.
But Lassiter's No. 9 hitter went with an 0-2 pitch on the outside corner and one-hopped the wall in right-center for a two-run double to push the Trojans' lead to 4-0.
"That's big," Lassiter coach Jason Campbell said. "You've got to have some two-out hits in a game if you're going to win. Our girls stepped up and did well (Thursday) and battled. It's the third time in two days we've seen (Ablan), and we made adjustments. And that was key."
Brookwood still had chances to get back into the game after Blackwell reached on an error to lead off the fourth and Amanda Falcon reached on a wild pitch on a third strike with one out in the fifth.
But Kayler, who allowed just the two hits and struck out three in five shutout innings and also went 2-for-3 at the plate, got out of both innings unscathed.
And the Trojans put the game away in the fifth, with four straight one-out hits -- including RBI doubles from Ulicny and Green and a run-scoring single from Kelsey Wertz -- before an infield error eventually brought in a fourth run that ended the game on the GHSA's run rule. Despite the loss, Batchelor wouldn't let the disappointment overshadow his team's effort and accomplishments this season.
"Our kids kept playing hard," Batchelor said. "That's all I can ask of them."