TUNNEL HILL, Ga. - You can forgive Ali Roberts a bit if her head was spinning following Heritage's wild 8-7 win over Northwest Whitfield in the Region 7-AAAA softball championship game Saturday.
The freshman had just had her most adventurous five minutes of high school play as the Generals scored three times in the eighth inning without a hit to earn the region's top state-playoff seed and potentially two home series.
Heritage (26-7) begins its playoff run Wednesday against Carrollton in a best-of-three series, with Northwest (28-6) hosting LaGrange.
After allowing two runs in the top of the eighth, Heritage had runners on third and second bases with no out when Roberts hit a line drive that Northwest pitcher BriLeigh Baggett knocked down. However, her rushed throw got away from first baseman Kylie Ward, with one run scoring. The tying run then scored when Krissi Prewitt's grounder was thrown home trying to cut down the runner, the close call sending Northwest coach Jason Brooker into an uproar.
During the ensuing argument Roberts alertly rounded second and made it to third. Moments later she raced home with the winning run when a Baggett pitch during an intentional-walk attempt of Olivia Tamewitz sailed to the backstop.
"I saw they were arguing, and I was afraid she was going to look up and throw me out, but it was worth the chance because this is the championship," Roberts said of her first-to-third gamble. "I didn't expect the wild pitch when they were trying to walk Olivia, but when the ball didn't bounce right back to [the catcher], I took off."
The Generals left 14 runners on base through the first six innings, partly due to three line-drive outs with runners on third and second in the first two innings. Northwest, meanwhile, used a pair of walks, a bunt single and an error to plate three runs in the second.
Heritage, though rattled, never backed off, scoring a single run in the third and four in the fourth on four hits and a two-run error.
"The biggest thing is, even though we made some defensive mistakes and left too many runners on, we didn't quit," Heritage coach Steve Chattin said. "There have been a lot of ups and downs, especially against a team like Northwest, but we don't quit."
Neither did the Lady Bruins, who scored one in the sixth and tied the game in the seventh when Colbie Thomas led off with a triple and scored on Bayli Cruse's groundout. In the eighth, they took a 7-5 lead on Allysa Ward's two-out, two-run single, setting up the dramatic bottom of the inning.
"Another classic game with them," Brooker said. "It wasn't pretty and I'm sure they weren't happy with the way they played, either. It shouldn't have come down to the last batter. We've got to make plays."
Contact Lindsey Young at email@example.com or at 423-757-6296.