RINGGOLD, Ga. — Needing a win to keep a season alive, most softball teams would rely on experience to get them through. Ringgold went the other route Wednesday to square the Lady Tigers' Class AAA first-round best-of-three series with North Oconee.
Freshman Abby McKinney pitched five strong innings as Ringgold rallied from a 3-2 loss in game one to force a deciding game today at 2 p.m. with a 5-0 win. McKinney also had two hits, while another freshman, Aimee Davidson, added two hits and drove in a run in the Lady Tigers' victory.
"They picked up it in the second game," Ringgold coach Rachel Hodge said. "We didn't play terribly in the first game, but we made a few mistakes we don't normally do, for whatever reason. And they got a few dink and dunk hits that we didn't get. We hit several to the fence, but right at them. Hopefully tomorrow our bats will come out hot again and we can take care of business."
Ringgold (25-6) held a 2-1 lead heading into the sixth inning of game one after Lacey Loy's two-run single in the third. However, with two out and a runner on second, North Oconee's Brooke Turner reached on a popup that didn't go out of the infield and Jacqueline Truluck followed with another infield single, tying the game. The Titans then went ahead on Jessica Perschka's bloop single that ticked off Ringgold second baseman Davidson's glove two steps into the outfield.
North Oconee pitcher Hannah Harden stranded runners on third and second bases in the bottom of the inning, then sat the Lady Tigers down in order to seal the win in the seventh.
McKinney, who pitched very little in the second half of the season, was in charge through three innings but had to work hard to get out of a bases-loaded situation in the fourth and left runners on third and second in the fifth. Ringgold scored single runs in the first, fourth and fifth innings for a 3-0 lead, but trouble brewed in the sixth with the visitors
A single and a walk ended McKinney's outing, and Hodge called on game one starter Brittany Portwood, who struck out the next two batters and ended the inning on a comebacker. She sat down the Titans (16-18) in order in the seventh after Ringgold scored two insurance runs on Lacey Loy's two-out hit in the top half.
"When I came in I just said to myself that I've got to get these outs," Portwood said. "Being a senior I've been through it the past three years, so I felt if I hit my spots we would be OK. Abby was great and I'm behind her the whole way. Tomorrow we have to come out and go for the win. We can't let up."
Lindsey Young is a sports writer at the Chattanooga Times Free Press who started work at the Chattanooga News-Free Press 24 years ago. He covers the Northwest Georgia prep beat and NASCAR. Lindsey’s hometown is Ringgold, Ga., and he graduated from Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe High School. He received an associate’s degree from Dalton Junior College (now Dalton State) and a bachelor’s degree in communications from UTC. He has won several writing awards, including two Tennessee Sports ...