Valiants force Game 3, but Gators cut rally short

October 16, 2018

HAHIRA — The Valwood softball team rallied as much as it could in its decisive third game of the second round of the GISA Class 3A state playoffs.

It just wasn't enough to match six runs.

The Valiants took a 2-0 shutout loss against the Bulloch Academy Gators in Game 1, won 7-5 in Game 2 and fell 6-4 in Game 3 at Hollis Field on a sweltering Tuesday afternoon.

The loss ended Valwood's season after capturing a second consecutive region championship.

"I told them it was a great year. They fought hard," Valiants coach Courtney Carter said. "We lost our catcher and probably our most dominant hitter last year, along with two other players. We went through a little speed bump part of the way and we lost three or four games, but they kept working hard and performed better than many thought they would." 

Doubles by Graceigh Boothe and Emily Taylor helped the Valiants take a 2-0 lead in Game 2, and a fielding error made it 3-0 in the first inning. The Gators pulled within 3-2 and loaded the bases before Natalie Rojas caught a popup to end the inning without any additional runs being pushed across. 

Boothe's sac-fly plated Bri Fosdick in the second inning to take a two-run lead before Bulloch Academy scored a pair of runners on a sac-fly in the seventh, tying the game.

Mary Clare Martin launched a two-run homer across left field in the top of the eighth and Darcee Brown doubled off the left-field fence, scoring Rojas for a 7-4 advantage.

Carter said it was a lot about technique and finding a comfort level for Valwood's batters that led to a better offensive output in the second game.

"It was really nerve-wracking for a lot of them, a young team with an eighth-grade catcher. They got their feet under them, got a little confidence as we continued and the bats came with it," she said.

Martin had three RBIs in the Valiants' Game 2 win and Boothe had two. Brown pitched a complete game, surrendering five runs and delivering two strikeouts.

Bulloch Academy went ahead 4-0 after the first inning of Game 3 and led 6-1 before Valwood plated three runs in the fourth inning.

Rojas scored on a wild pitch and Ansley Haskard scored two with a single to center field.

"Coming off the loss in the first game they knew it was going to take three games," Carter said. "So for them to put forth that effort, they were ready to fight for it and win, so I was really proud of that."