CHICKAMAUGA, Ga. - If there were any doubts as to whether the Gordon Lee High School softball team would be competitive with eight new starters, Thursday's season opener should provide some clues.
In winning 3-1 over Calhoun, Georgia Class AA's top-ranked coaches' poll team, Gordon Lee displayed the kind of ball it needs to play after graduating the corps of a team that lost one game the last two years and won consecutive Class A state championships.
Senior pitcher Kalei Kimbrell, taking over the ace role from Brenna Nation, allowed two hits and one unearned run and struck out nine, and the batters did just enough to pull out two runs in the sixth to break a tie.
"This is a big win for us because Calhoun is a great team and I'm sure our girls were anxious and had a lot of nerves today," Gordon Lee coach Dana Mull said. "There are some things we could have done better, but I believe good pitching will keep us in games and we have to find ways to score runs."
Kimbrell and Calhoun's Alyssa Shawgo (four-hitter with five strikeouts) were in control until the Gordon Lee sixth, when Tiffany Holland led off with a walk. Though Holland was forced out at second base, Ashley McDonald followed with a single and Kimbrell induced a walk after a 14-pitch at-bat in which she fouled off five 3-2 pitches.
Ansley Underwood then delivered a two-run single to left-center, and Kimbrell ended the game with a perfect seventh inning.
"I just wanted to do whatever I could to help the team," Kimbrell said of her marathon at-bat. "This is definitely a big win against a really good team, and it should be a confidence booster for us. We know we have a target on our backs this year, and people say we can't be as good again because we lost so much."