North Gwinnett’s Lindsey Cobb (2) tries to get the tag on Collins Hill’s Jaimie Hoover (10) at first base during the Region 7-AAAAAA finals Thursday night at Collins Hill. (Photo: Karl L. Moore)
SUWANEE — For seven innings, Collins Hill pitcher Mandy Chance went toe-to-toe with North Gwinnett pitcher Hannah Harrison. In the end, it was a bases-loaded infield single by Chase Battle that gave the Bulldogs the 1-0 win to take the Region 7-AAAAAA softball crown.
“That’s what games between these two teams have been like for the last 12 years,” said North head coach Randy Black. “You expect these kind of games when these teams meet.”
The Bulldogs (23-4) started the seventh inning with Lindsey Cobb hitting a single to left field. Emily Dennis’ bunt was thrown away to put runners on first and third. After a pop out, McKinna Dowell was intentionally walked to set up Battle for the game-winning infield single.
“I told her to relax before she went up there,” Black said. “She’s a senior and a three-year starter. It’s a situation she’s been in before and she had already hit the ball hard twice today. It was a solid hit.”
Throughout the game, Chance and Harrison matched each other in setting down the opposing order. While each did allow runners to get on base, the defense made big plays to keep the game scoreless.
North had runners on first and second in the bottom of the first, but Moriah Strother hit into a double play to end the inning. The Bulldogs put runners on first and second again in the second with one out, but Chance got two strikeouts to end the inning.
Collins Hill (20-4) had its first real chance in the third with a runner on third with one out. But a grounder to Dowell at shortstop was thrown home and nailed pinch-runner Corie Frazier out at the plate.
North had another chance in the fifth inning after a single by Emily Dennis and double by Kaitlyn Andrews. However, Dennis tried to score on the play and was thrown out at home for the first out. A pop out and a ground out ended the inning and the Bulldogs’ chance at putting the first run on the board.
“It was a good defensive play by them,” Black said. “Great play by the outfielder, who hit the cut-off and then threw home. Great play for them.”
The Eagles looked to capitalize on the momentum as Jamie Hoover singled to open up the sixth. Two sacrifice bunts moved her to third base, but a fly out left her there to end the inning.
Finally, in the seventh inning, North took advantage of the throwing error and scored the game winner.
Harrison finished the game giving up three hits and seven strikeouts, while Chance gave up 10 hits and struck out four.
“I’d love to have either of those pitchers on my team,” Black said. “Those are two of the best pitchers in the state.”
For Collins Hill head coach Paul Pierce, it’s a tough loss, but one his team will learn from.
“You have to hand it to Coach Black and his team,” he said. “They made the plays to win the game. We look forward to our next meeting with them.”