Scoring twice in the bottom of the sixth, the sixth-ranked Screven County Lady Gamecocks (22-7) earned a double header split with the visiting, seventh-ranked Dodge County Squaws (24-7) to send their 3AA semifinal playoff series to a deciding third game. The contest will be Monday in Eastman at 5 p.m.
The winner of the Monday game will face Bleckley County for the region title. The best-two-of-three series will be played on Wednesday and Thursday with the double header being at the home of the higher seed — or coin toss winner for two teams of the same seed — with the “if” game at the home of the other.
Senior SCHS catcher Lauren Thomas’ one-out triple plated Courtney Burns with the go-ahead run in what had been a back and forth second game. Thomas scored an insurance run in the 5-3 win on Dawn Stewart’s ground out that followed. The win followed a 5-3, eight-inning loss in game one when the Lady Gamecocks were twice hurt in the late innings by what Gamecock fans called a pair of surely questionable calls.
“The ways the girls fought back to win the second game,” said SCHS Head Coach Billy Pollock, “I am so proud of them. They had a couple of pressure calls go against them in that first game that took them out of a position to win, but they did not hang their heads and feel sorry for themselves, they came out and did what they had to do like the champions they are.”
Game one started as the expected pitcher’s duel between Gamecock ace Marla Thompson (15-5) and Squaw Ashton Holt (22-4) with nothing but goose eggs on the scoreboard for five innings. Dodge broke through in the sixth as Caitlin Greer doubled in Jaye Hilliard, who was hit by a pitch, and Holt, who had singled. With the Gamecocks having had but two hits through five the situation looked bleak.
Things quickly turned around in the home half of the sixth when a Madyson Torres walk was followed by a Tiffanie Burns’ single. Rochelle Shuman took one pitch to tie the game as she blasted a double off the bottom of the left-center fence. Following a bunt single by Courtney Burns, Shuman rounded third, diving back when Greer’s throw came back. On a call that will long be talked about by Gamecock fans, she was called out. After Burns stole second, Thompson laid down a perfect sacrifice bunt with Burns being thrown out at home for the final out.
With the scored still knotted at 2-2 in the bottom of the seventh Thomas singled and stole second with one out. When Lovey Sheppard beat out an infield grounder, Thomas was called out for interference even though a sliding shortstop fielded and threw the ball to first cleanly. Sheppard was then thrown out attempting a steal, possibly sustaining a broken hand in the process.
Dodge scored three in the top of the eight that began with the runner on second while the Lady Gamecocks managed to plate but one.
“We really had a chance to fold after that one,” reiterated Pollock after the day was done. “The first game ended on such a down note. I just cannot say enough about the resilience of the girls in the second game. As great a team as Dodge is, if we come out in the second game flat, we might have been run-ruled. We didn’t.”
After the Squaws took a 1-0 lead in the fourth inning of game two, SCHS came storming back in their half as Thompson singled in Torres and Tiffanie Burns before Thomas singled in Shuman. When Dodge tied the game at three in the sixth, the stage was set for the Thomas heroics.
As the Lady Gamecocks head to Eastman on Monday they look to play for their fourth Region 3AA title in five years. On the day Thompson, Shuman and Thomas had three hits each with each also collecting a pair of rbi.