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Battle in the Boro roundup
Walnut Grove wins tournament
W 082711 BORO BATTLE 05
Statesboro High's Kristin Kingery pitches against Cross Creek Saturday during the Battle in the Boro softball tournament at Mill Creek Regional Park. - photo by SCOTT BRYANT/staff

As 11 schools descended on Mill Creek Regional Park this weekend, the host team couldn’t take advantage. Statesboro hung in with some tough opponents, but ultimately dropped all five of its contests at the Battle in the Boro.
    “Overall, I was pleased with the effort we gave,” said SHS coach Jim Simmons. “There were a lot of very talented teams competing here this weekend. I think we may have gotten a little tired and worn down in the later games, and that caused us not to be as competitive.”
    The wins might not have been there for the Devils, but they still came away with some valuable experience for the rest of the season.
    “We got to look at some new people in new positions,” said Simmons. “Some of those decisions were pleasant surprises. Some, not so much. We had some big challenges this weekend, but our girls did their best to rise up and meet those challenges.”
    In the end, it was the team making the farthest journey to the tournament that made the most of its weekend.
    Ranked No. 1 in the Class-AAA poll, Walnut Grove out of Loganville swept through its pool and dominated the gold bracket, earning a 5-0 record and tournament championship honors.
    Cross Creek took the top spot in the silver bracket with Bradwell Institute topping the bronze bracket and Swainsboro finishing first in the white bracket.
    The other participating Bulloch County school fared no better than the host Blue Devils as Portal lost all three of its pool games and did not participate in bracket play.
    One of the most thrilling games of the day took place in the final round of pool play as Screven County and Savannah Christian battled for the top spot — and a Gold Bracket birth — in Pool B.
    The Lady Gamecocks led much of the way, but a four-run outburst by the Lady Raiders in the top of the sixth inning proved to be the winning margin in a 5-2 contest.
    Due to the time limit, the Raiders knew that the sixth inning would be its last and made the most of it.
    Madison Young led off with a single before Raiders pitcher Brooke Eichenlaub doubled her home to tie the game. Jordan Smith singled and a wild pitch brought runners to second and third. Screven nearly escaped when Eichenlaub was thrown out in a run down, but Veronica Woodberry’s bouncer to shortstop was mishandled and Smith crossed with the go-ahead run.
    Katie Boaen added a two-run single for insurance and Eichenlaub pitched a perfect bottom half of the inning to end the game.
    “The game can boil down to a few big plays, and we didn’t make them,” said Screven coach Billy Pollock. “We stress defense and played pretty well, but a few mistakes at the wrong time cost us.”
    Tied at 1-1 in the bottom of the third, Screven received back-to-back singles from Taryn Burns and Courtney Roberts to leadoff the frame and a bunt single by Jancy Durrence loaded the bases. Courtney Burns blooped a single into right center to give the Gamecocks a 2-1 lead, but Eichenlaub clamped down and didn’t allow another run.
    “We just didn’t execute,” said Pollock. “Bottom line is, when we load the bases with no one out, I expect to get three runs. That didn’t happen for us.”
    After the loss knocked Screven out of contention for the overall tournament title, the Gamecocks took out their frustrations in the first round of the silver bracket.
    In Screven’s next game against Richmond Hill, a big second inning set the tone and the Gamecocks never let up.
    After a walk and a Richmond Hill error, Reshea Edwards knocked home a pair of runs with a single. Durrence brought Edawards home with a sacrifice fly and then Courtney Burns and Dawn Stewart each sent outfielders running with shots to the left center field gap, allowing three more runners to score and pressing the Screven lead to 8-1.
    Richmond closed within 8-4 in the third inning, but the Gamecocks added three more in their half of the inning and Courtney Burns singled in a run and came in on an error to cap the scoring.
    Reaching the silver bracket final, the Gamecocks couldn’t quite close the deal. Screven scored a run in the top of the first to take a 1-0 lead on Cross Creek, but the Razorbacks rallied for two runs in the bottom half.
    Screven tied it back up and took a brief 4-3 lead on Taryn Burns’ two-run single in the third inning, but the bats fell silent over the final four frames and Cross Creek took advantage of its small ball offensive strategy and a few Gamecock errors to pull away with a 12-4 win.
    In gold bracket competition, Walnut Grove breezed through its semifinal game to defeat South Effingham 5-0. In the other semifinal, Savannah Christian looked like it was cruising after scoring six runs in the top of the first, but the Raiders’ offense cooled and they had to endure an Effingham County rally to escape with a 7-6 win.
    In the tournament championship game, Savannah Christian scored twice in the top of the first, but Walnut Grove struck back in full force.
    The Lady Warriors notched three runs each in the second, third and fourth innings to blow the game wide open.
    The big blows were a two-run double by Becka Ross in the second inning and a two-run home run by Hannah Reppert in the fourth.
    Leading 9-2 in the sixth inning, Victoria walked the bases loaded and an error by Destiny Clyde allowed three Savannah Christian runners to score. The Raiders tacked on one more to pull within 9-6, but Coker retired the final four Savannah Christian batters to close out the game.

    Mike Anthony can be reached at (912) 489-9404.