(Franklin, GA) — In a top five Class AA clash at Heard High Tuesday night, the No. 1 ranked Rockmart Yellow Jackets defeated the No. 5 ranked Lady Braves 6-4 in a thrilling game of softball.
The Lady Braves battled back late from a 4-0 deficit to tie the game in the bottom of the sixth with the big blow coming on a pinch-hit 2-run homer from sophomore Beth Taylor that tied the contest up 4-4.
It was the defending state champion Jackets (24-2, 13-1) that would have the final word, however, after plating two go-ahead runs in the top of the seventh.
The effort by the Lady Braves (16-6, 9-0) was a strong one versus the same team that knocked them out of the 2017 state playoffs by outscoring them 29-2 in a doubleheader sweep at Rockmart.
Even in the loss, this 2018 group of Lady Braves showed they can compete with anyone in Class AA come postseason time.
Junior Katelyn Jiles started and went the distance for the Lady Braves giving up just four earned runs and striking out seven versus the potent jacket line-up. Coach Matt Hornsby says Jiles is throwing better than she has all season with an increase in velocity as of late.
“We think tonight was the best we’ve seen Katelyn pitch in her career,” said Hornsby after the game. “In the spring we were clocking her in the low to mid 50’s and now she is hitting the upper 50’s and tonight she was really hitting her spots and this was only her second start of the season. We really like her coming into games in that relief role because she’s our hardest thrower but it is good to know we can count on her to start games as well.”
The Lady Braves bats came alive in the sixth after not producing a run over the last 12 innings of two games versus some of the best pitching in the state.
The Lady Braves mob sophomore Beth Taylor after her game-tying pinch hit HR Tuesday night
After Hannah Holden and Emma Helton reached base, Mackenzie White brought Holden home on a sacrifice fly and Janiyah Strong blasted a line drive double off the left field wall to make the score 4-2.
Hornsby then made the call to bring in Beth Taylor to pinch hit for one of his best hitters Marissa Garza and it paid off in a big way. The coach was pleased with how both girls responded.
“Marissa is one of our best hitters — Marissa Knows that and we know that, but we felt match-up wise she just wasn’t seeing the ball well against the Jacket pitcher tonight so we told her ahead of time we were going to pinch hit for her,” Hornsby said.
“I told Beth to look for an away pitch she could drive to the right center field gap but she went a step further and hit it over the fence. The best part for me as a coach was looking to the dugout and seeing Marissa being the first one out to congratulate her and the happiest one for her. That is just something you love to see as a coach and something that shows leadership and will leave an impression on her teammates.”
Beth Taylor, who played in the junior varsity game as well Tuesday has made the most of her 13 varsity at bats this season with seven hits including a double, two homers, six RBI’s and seven runs scored.
Holden and senior Katelyn Baldwin each had two hits for the Lady Braves Tuesday and combined for three stolen bases. Senior base running specialist Alexus Crawford also added another stolen base giving her 16 for the season.
Freshman Mackenzie White has received the bulk of the starts at catcher of late and has made the most of her time with a team-high batting average of .514 over her 40 at bats. Tori Caldwell and Marissa Garza are also both batting above the .400 mark.
The Lady Braves will face off with yet another highly ranked opponent at home today when they host the No. 7 team in Class AAAAA Carrollton with a first pitch at 5:30 PM. The squad travels to Lamar County tomorrow (5:30 PM) to close out the regular season.
The Lady Braves will host the Region 5-AA tourney next Thursday, October 4 in Franklin.