RINGGOLD, Ga. - Rachel Hodge wasn't sure if it was the same team she watched in game two of the Class AAA second-round softball doubleheader Wednesday.
The Ringgold coach, after seeing her hot-hitting team rap out 13 hits in a 5-2 win in game one against Jackson County, saw the visitors' Payton Sorrells shut them down on one hit to earn a 4-1 win in game two. The deciding game three will be held today at 4 at Ringgold.
"The girls were ready in the first game, but in the second game, even though we had some good moments, we didn't have the same intensity," Hodge said. "It was unfortunate we hit several balls to the fence and they caught them, but we should never only score one run. It was a big dropoff."
The Lady Tigers (29-6) broke open a 2-2 game one with two runs in the fifth on consecutive RBI singles from Dare Schley and Aimee Davidson, then added an insurance run in the sixth on Taylor Chadwick's double. Abbey McKinney, who escaped a two-on, one-out situation in the sixth, retired the Lady Panthers (24-10) in order in the seventh. She allowed only four hits and struck out eight in addition to getting a pair of hits and scoring twice.
Senior Devan Brown had three hits, including a solo homer in the first inning, and drove in two runs, while Chadwick, Schley and Katie Cain each added two hits for a Ringgold team that in three playoff games had rapped out 40 hits.
Sorrells, thanks in part to aggressive Ringgold batters, took care of that in game two. After allowing an unearned run in the first inning and stranding three runners, the junior sat down the next 19 batters in order. She did not record a strikeout, but had 13 infield outs.
"Payton did a great job," said Jackson coach Chessie Laird, whose team took a 2-1 lead in the bottom of the first on an RBI single by Shelton Kendrix and Jessica Baker's groundout. "For her to come in and pitch like she did was phenomenal. She offers something different every time out and we felt she would give us a good chance to win. She was mentally tough that game and she worked her spots. We also had a much better effort defensively in the second game and we'll have to do that tomorrow to have a shot."
Sorrells needed just seven pitches to get the final six outs, which included two line shots to the fence in the sixth and three other hard-hit ground balls that were fielded flawlessly. Kendrix gave her some insurance in the fifth with a two-out, two-run double.
"We've been through this before, losing the first game last year in the first round and moving on," Hodge said. "They're a good team and they're going to come tomorrow ready, so we're going to have to out-hit them."
Contact Lindsey Young at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 423-757-6296.