Staff Photo: John Bohn Georgia Gwinnett College softball players prepare to play their first softball game against Faulkner on Saturday. A double header was played at the Collins Hill High School softball facility, as construction continues on new athletic facilities on the GGC campus.
LAWRENCEVILLE -- The inaugural season of Georgia Gwinnett College softball didn't get off to a good start, but it didn't take long for the next step to be a great one.
Playing for the first time in school history, GGC split a doubleheader with Faulkner University as the Grizzlies dropped the opener 3-2 but came back to take a 4-1 win in the nightcap.
"This is a proud moment for our school and this program," GGC head coach Kat Ihlenburg said. "These girls have worked so hard and just coming up short in that first game was difficult. But we showed a lot coming back in the second game and we didn't lay down. We battled back and stayed aggressive. I'm just very, very proud of them for the way they focused after that first game."
Playing on the campus of Collins Hill High School as GGC's new softball complex nears completion, Game 1 went to Faulkner as the Eagles rallied for a pair of runs in the top of the sixth inning.
Both teams got on the scoreboard with single runs in the first inning.
Sophie Slemp reached on an error on a grounder hit to shortstop, and Keri Hyde came home to score to make it 1-0 Faulkner.
GGC came right back to tie the game in the bottom half of the first.
Halley Ingram walked and moved to second on Felicia Shelton's sacrifice bunt. Ingram scored when Brittany Bruns singled to left-center to tie the game at 1-1.
The game remained scoreless until GGC plated a run in the bottom of the fifth to take a 2-1 lead.
GGC loaded the bases with no outs and Ingram came through with a sacrifice fly to chase home Mary Ellen Pilitowski. GGC reloaded the bases with one out in the inning, but a foul-out to first and a fly-out to left snuffed out the rally.
That proved costly as Faulkner took a 3-2 lead in the top of the sixth on Morgan Martin's two-out double down the left field line.
GGC didn't go quietly. The Grizzlies put runners at second and third in the bottom of the sixth and seventh innings. But Natalie Walker, who had come to pitch in the sixth, worked out of both jams to get the save and preserve the win for Faulkner.
GGC stranded nine base runners in the game, including seven in scoring position in the final three innings.
GGC (1-1) came back strong in the second game as the Grizzlies broke a 1-1 tie with three runs in the third inning and held on for the first win of the first-year program.
As it did in the first game, Faulkner (1-1) took a 1-0 lead in the top of the first when Tori Hollis singled in Hyde from third.
GGC answered in the second as Carrie Ann Bullard singled to left to score Jordyn Fones from third to tie the game at 1-1.
The Grizzlies came right back in the third with the big three-run inning that eventually proved to be the difference. Fones reached on an infield single and Heaven Hinton scored when the throw got away at first base to make it 2-1 GGC.
Pilitowski made it 4-1 when she roped a two-out single to right-center to plate Heather Kilar and Fones.
Fones finished the game 3-for-3 with two runs scored while Bruns was 2-for-4 and Ingram 2-for-3 for GGC as the Grizzlies pounded out 10 hits against two Faulkner pitchers.
From there, GGC's pitching and defense were solid as the Grizzlies held Faulkner scoreless the rest of the way.
Faulkner left a total of six runners on in the fourth, fifth and sixth innings -- nine for the game.
That included runners on second and third in the sixth with no one out, but a force play at home for the first out and two straight strikeouts by GGC reliever Ashley Beyke closed the deal for the Grizzlies.
"I thought our pitching was really good," Ihlenburg said. "And I was proud of (former Collins Hill softball player) Ashleigh Simmons, who probably caught a lot of games on this field for years. She did a great job of handling our pitchers and caught two great games."
Starter Tiffany Bailey (1-1) picked up the win in the circle for GGC with five-plus innings of solid work while Beyke got the save.