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Gators sweep on through


Neither falling temperatures, drenching rain, chilling breezes nor a case of the flu could derail the Bulloch Academy Lady Gators in their first-round playoff against Southland Academy Monday

Bulloch swept the best-of-three series with a dominating 18-3 victory in the first game and a 9-5 win in the second game. The Lady Gators will head to Macon Thursday to battle Tattnall Square Academy in the second round of the GISA Class AAA tournament. Game times are scheduled for 3 p.m. and 5 p.m. with the ‘if’ game at 7 p.m. if necessary.

The Lady Gators collected 24 hits on the day and took advantage of 12 Southland errors.

"We hit the ball really well," said BA head coach Chandler Dennard. "This is the way we were hitting the ball back during the summer. I am real proud of the way the girls showed up ready to play, mentally and emotionally, and then delivered."

A cool, crisp and overcast day greeted Bulloch and the visitors from Americus as they took the field at noon for the first game. But something else greeted Bulloch’s ace pitcher Lauren Dennard earlier in the day; the flu.

"The doctor said she had a 101.7 degree temperature this morning," said Dennard. "We really didn’t know if she would be able to play or not."

But the senior toughed it out, starting the first game. As it turned out, her teammates were just as tough as she was.

Offensively, Bulloch pounded Southland pitching for 14 hits and scored seven runs in the first inning, three in the second and eight in the third. Defensively, they backed Dennard with a superb defense that allowed just five hits in the three-inning, mercy-rule contest.

In the opening frame, BA sent 12 batters to the plate who collected six hits and one walk while benefitting from three errors. Ashley Burke notched a single and a two-RBI double in the hit fest while Kaleigh Sisolak, Page Spence, Powell Fennell and Ally Cheshire all had singles. Marianna Peebles and Haley Mock reached Raider errors.

The Lady Gators took a 10-0 lead in the second.

Peebles doubled, Spence had a sharp single to left and Fennell walked to load the bases. Southland’s Megan Burke replaced Kendall Berry on the mound. With one out, Cheshire drove a single to right to score Peebles and Spence. Dennard’s ground out plated Fennell for the overwhelming lead.

The Lady Raiders touched Dennard for three runs in the top of the third.

Ella Hawkins led off with a single and advanced to second when Dallas NeSmith reached on an error. Both scored on Madison McPherson’s monster triple to center. McPherson crossed the plate when Avery Hart reached on a BA fielding miscue.

Bulloch got the run-rule in the third, scoring eight runs on six hits and four SA errors.

In the inning, Sisolak pounded both a triple and a double. Spence also had a triple while both Peebles and Cheshire had singles.

Both Cheshire and Spence was 3-for-3 with two RBI, Sisolak was 3-for-4 with four RBI, Burke was 2-for-2 with two RBI and a walk and Peebles was 2-for-3 with an RBI.

A light rain had wandered in and out of the opening game but it decided to stay a while after the second contest got underway at 2 p.m.

When the showers moved on about an hour later, a small army of fathers, mothers and BA coaches used a mountain of Quick Dry to get the field back into playing condition. At 4 p.m., the second game got underway.

The Lady Gators, who were the visitors, scored one in the first and four in both the second and third to take a 9-0 lead.

Peebles pounded a double in the opening stanza to score Sisolak, who had walked and stole second.

In the second, BA had just one hit but scored four runs. Both Fennell and Ashlee Lanier drew walks and Burke was hit by a pitch. Cheshire reached on an error and Dennard lofted an RBI sacrifice fly. Two runs scored on wild pitches.

The BA girls hit the ball next inning, notching five to plate four runs. Cheshire doubled and Lanier, Burke, Sisolak and Mary Margaret Reeves all had singles. Dennard also reached on an error. In the game, Reeves was 2-for-3 with two RBI and two walks while Peebles was 2-for-5 with two doubles and an RBI.

Although Southland did score one run in the third, starting pitcher Madelyn Vickery was cruising as the Gator faithful looked for another run-rule victory.

But the junior pitcher began to get sick herself in the fourth. At one point, it even appeared that she had to back off the pitching rubber in order to clear her head.

"Madelyn got sick during the game," said Dennard. "She started throwing up."

After Vickery gave up three walks, a hit and one run in the fifth, Dennard had to return to the mound. Another hit, an error and three more runs cut the BA lead to 9-5 and put a scare into the Lady Gators.

But the Bulloch defense settled down to hold off the hard-charging Lady Raiders and advance to the next round.