Staff Photo: Brendan Sullivan Grayson celebrates their 11-10 victory over Mill Creek during game one of three in the second round of Class AAAAAA softball playoffs at Grayson High school in Loganville on Wednesday.
LOGANVILLE -- Mill Creek and Grayson split Wednesday's second-round state softball doubleheader with a pair of last at-bat wins.
Grayson, which won the first game 11-10, scored three runs in the bottom of the seventh to score the win. Mill Creek got two runs in the bottom of the sixth in the second game to take a 5-3 win, forcing a deciding game today at 5:30 p.m.
"This is an awesome opportunity for these girls on both teams," said Grayson head coach Jennifer Edwards. "They've worked hard throughout the season and it's been a lot of fun."
The first game was met with a little controversy in the bottom of the seventh with Mill Creek (21-13-1) leading 10-8.
Amber Miller walked and Peyton Glover singled to begin the inning. After a pop out, Caroline Sandhagen reached on an error by the shortstop. A second error was committed on a throw, which allowed Miller to come around and score. That's when things got dicey.
Amanda Kemp bunted in hopes of scoring the tying run. As the ball was picked up by Mill Creek catcher Emily Lawrence, Glover ran into another Mill Creek defender, getting tagged out in the process. However, in high school softball, a defensive player can't be in the baseline if she doesn't have the ball. That play forced the home-plate umpire to give Glover the base and tie the game at 10-10.
"It was a fortunate call for us," Edwards said. "That inning shows our girls never quit fighting."
After a walk to Taylor Denton, Sierra Smith came up and gave the Rams (20-15-1) a walk-off win on a single off the pitcher's glove.
"There was a lot wrapped up in that first game," said Mill Creek head coach Roger Parham. "Even with the loss, we knew the second game would be equally as important."
Grayson put up four runs in the bottom of the first, answering Mill Creek's one run. Stephanie Snyder, Bre Ethridge and Rachel Seasholtz each had an RBI, while the fourth run scored on an error.
"We felt confident going in there against their pitchers," Edwards said. "We focused a lot on what they throw and worked hard in the cages."
However, the lead would not last long for the Rams as Mill Creek put up five runs in the top of the third. The big hit of the inning came from Sarah Peery, who blasted a grand slam over the left-field fence to propel the Hawks to a 6-4 lead.
The Rams answered in the bottom half of the inning on an RBI double by Glover and an RBI single by Sanhagen. They also added two more runs the next inning on an RBI single by Smith and an RBI double by Ethridge.
Mill Creek wouldn't go away, however. In the top of the sixth with one on and two out, the Hawks began to do some damage, taking advantage of one Grayson error to help put three runs on the board. The big hit came from McKenzie Fagioli on a two-run single that gave the Hawks a 9-8 lead. Carly Zabow's RBI double put the Hawks up by two before the bottom of the seventh.
Game 2 also had its share of excitement.
In the end, Mill Creek was able to score two runs in the bottom of the sixth to come out with the win.
With two outs, Fagioli hit a single to left field and scored on an RBI double by Bennett. Morgan Bell then hit an RBI single, giving Mill Creek a 5-3 lead.
"Those two runs were huge," Parham said. "The first run was big in itself, but that second run took the pressure off our defense in the top of the seventh. They had their nine, one and two hitters coming up. Denton is a game-changer, so that second run really helped us."
In the top of the seventh, Grayson wasn't able to get anything going as two groundouts and a popout ended the game.
Heather Felt picked up the win in the circle, going the distance with two hits allowed and four strikeouts.
"Heather was great in the circle for us all night long," Parham said. "I was a little concerned with her pitch count after putting her in Game 1, but she got a lot of first-pitch strikes in Game 2, which allowed us to keep her in for the full game."
The Hawks jumped on the board early, using an error to help score two runs, giving them an early 2-0 lead. They would also add another run in the third inning on Zabow's RBI fielder's choice.
Where the Hawks hurt themselves was in the next inning when they loaded the bases with no outs. A strikeout, a force out at the plate on a grounder and another groundout ended the threat, leaving the score at 3-0.
Grayson tied the score in the fifth inning as it took advantage of a bad throw on an attempted double play. Denton slapped an RBI infield single to score Sandhagen and Smith blasted a two-run double to tie the score at 3-3.
For the doubleheader, Fagioli led the Hawks by going 5-for-7 with three RBIs and two runs scored, while Bennett was 3-for-8 with four runs scored and one RBI.
For Grayson, Denton was 3-for-8 with three runs, one RBI and two stolen bases, while Smith was 3-for-8 with four RBIs, two runs scored and one stolen base.
"Tomorrow's going to be a battle," Parham said. "It's not going to come down to who gets the biggest hit. It's going to come down to who doesn't make the biggest mistake. The team that does that will come out on top."