When cross-town foes Heritage and Salem face off in softball, you can expect scratching and clawing to the very end.
Thursday night’s game was no different, as the Lady Patriots’ Amanda Voyles knocked in the go-ahead RBIs in the seventh inning to propel Heritage to a 6-4 win over Salem in 8B-AAAA action.
"Amanda got a good piece of the ball even though it was off of her fist," Heritage coach Dickie Hightower said. "She really has been clutch for us all season."
Even with star pitcher Nikki Walden on the mound for the Patriots (11-7, 3-0), the game couldn’t have started better for the Lady Noles (7-5, 1-2).
After a 1-2-3 inning that included two strikeouts from Salem ace Rylee Rogers, the Noles provided run support off the bat of Jessica Vason, whose sacrifice fly to the left fielder scored Taylor Beauchamp.
Down 1-0, Heritage’s Simone Davenport was able to score on a pass ball in the second inning to bring the game to 1-1.
Heritage was able to tack on two more runs in the third inning. After taking the lead on Callie Alford’s double that brought home Nikki Walden, Alford was able to score later that inning for a score of 3-1.
Heritage extended the lead to 4-1 in the fourth, but the Lady Noles would not go quietly from that point.
In the bottom of the fourth, fourth inning, Jessica Vason smashed a double into the gap, and was later picked up by her sister, Jay, on a single to bring the game to 4-2.
Salem didn’t stop bringing the pressure.
Taylor Beauchamp’s double plated Kristen George to cut the deficit to 4-3, and a wild pitch on an attempted intentional walk of Noles cleanup hitter Jessica Vason plated Beauchamp to a tie at 4-all.
After the sixth inning saw both Walden of Heritage and Rogers of Salem work efficient innings by throwing a mere 13 pitches apiece, Heritage proved to be the better team on this night, capitalizing when opportunities presented themselves.
Applying pressure most of the game, Heritage’s coach, Hightower, didn’t waste anytime putting more stress on the Lady Noles’ defense.
Kayle Phillips drew a five pitch walk in the seventh inning and, without any hesitation, Hightower had her stealing second and moving herself into scoring position.
Leadoff hitter Callie Alford then singled and also stole second, putting both runners in scoring position.
Hightower spoke highly of his leadoff hitter’s play after the game. "Callie is a very smart player. She is a great player for us and (easy) to coach."
That set up the game-winning play, as Voyles drove in two runs on a single providing the Lady Patriots the 6-4 lead and the eventual victory.
Heritages starter Walden took the hill to close the game out, working a brisk seventh inning and striking out opposing pitcher Rogers to end the game.
"Nikki really dug down deep in the end and came through big for us," Hightower said.
The coach couldn’t put enough emphasis on the seventh inning play for the Lady Patriots. "By getting runners on you can create pressure and can create opportunities," he said.
Heritage has now won three straight games and four of its last five games dating back to a 12-0 thumping of Monroe Area on Aug. 27.
Hightower’s bunch has outscored opponents 24-7 in those four wins, and they will try to match a season-best four-game winning streak when they travel to Cartersville to take on Chapel Hill on Labor Day.
The Lady Patriots will try and keep their unblemished region record when they travel to Loganville Thursday at 6:30 p.m.
Like there counterparts, the Lady Seminoles will be off for a week before resuming action against another cross-town rival in Rockdale County with first pitch at 5 p.m. on the same night.