The Screven County Lady Gamecocks took advantage of three Southeast Bulloch errors, scoring six times in the fourth inning to upset region rival SEB (21-1, 13-1) and claim the regular season region 3-AA first seed Tuesday with a 6-2 win at the Sylvania-Screven County Recreation Department.
"It's something that we've been working on for two-to-three weeks," said SCHS head coach Billy Pollack of beating the formerly undefeated Jackets. "We've been working on our hitting and being selective, and hard work pays off."
The game was a showdown of 3-AA's top two teams and a rematch of a contest earlier this season in which SEB sophomore Megan Barnwell struck out 19 batters in a 1-0, eight-inning SEB win. But on this night, the Lady Gamecocks (18-4, 13-1) found a way to beat the pitcher who had yet to lose a game this season.
Trailing 1-0 in the bottom of the fourth, Carly Williams stepped to the plate against Barnwell with one out and the Lady Jackets seemingly in control. Williams walked and began to wreak havoc on the base path.
After a walk to Brady Evans, Williams and courtesy runner Eva True pulled off a double steal to put runners at second and third with Laci Almand at the plate. Almand hit a soft liner over third base which SEB shortstop Jennifer Griffin couldn't corral, and Evans came in to score the inning's first run.
Carter Mills drove home True with a sacrifice squeeze, giving Screven its first lead of the game and Allison Steinhaus a chance to do more damage.
"I just got up there and tried to relax," said Steinhaus. "I was nervous a first, but just relaxed and let it rip."
Steinhaus sent Barnwell's offering screaming past first base, driving in two for the eventual game-winning RBI.
Steinhaus would score on Griffin's second error of the inning on a ball hit by Kate Blackburn, who would score Screven's final run on SEB's third error of the sixth, a two-out grounder to Laura Bennett.
"Defensively we just kind of fell apart that inning," said SEB head coach Aimee Civalier. "They did run, they were aggressive and we had some pop-ups that should have been caught. We just didn't get it done."
In all, Screven scored six runs, stole six bases, had two sacrifices and just one hit on Southeast's three errors in the pivotal inning.
"That's pretty much been our game plan all year," said Pollack, referring to the Lady Gamecocks' pressure on SEB's defense generated by stolen bases and sac bunts. "We like to create runs and today it just happened to work out. They didn't make the plays when they needed to."
Senior starting pitcher Elizabeth Poythress threw a complete game three-hitter, allowing two earned runs and striking out seven for Screven.
"I've been ready for this game since the last one," said Poythress. "We've spent the last couple of weeks preparing for this team, and I'm just so excited and so happy we were able to pull it out."
Poythress allowed a run in the top of the fourth when Griffin singled to lead off the inning. After a wild pitch, Griffin advanced to third on a Randi Lewis sacrifice and then scored on a Jamie Bohanon fielder's choice.
Southeast added a run in the fifth when Brandi Shuman's triple off the left centerfield wall plated Barnwell. Barnwell was charged with the loss, giving up two earned runs, walking three, surrendoring two hits and hitting a batter.
Screven won the region title by virtue of a tie-breaker in which the Lady Gamecocks have outscored their region opponents by a greater margin than the Lady Yellow Jackets.
Both teams will began their quest for the state tournament on Thursday at the SSCRD. Screven will play at 3 p.m. and Southeast Bulloch at 4:30 p.m.
Chad Bishop can be reached at (912)-489-9404.