The Southeast Bulloch Yellow Jackets know what it’s like to lose to a No. 4 seed in the opening round of the state playoffs, and they weren’t about to have that feeling again. Lauren Erickson provided the go-ahead run with a solo home run in the fifth inning, and pitcher Alana Barnard did the rest allowing only two hits and striking out seven in helping the Jackets advance with a 3-1 victory over Jackson.
“We made the plays when we had to,” said Southeast Bulloch Coach Aimee Civalier. “Hats off to Jackson, they are a good team and their pitcher kept us to minimal hits today. We fought hard, and we are excited.”
The two teams split a doubleheader on Tuesday with the Red Devils winning 2-1, and the Jackets taking game two 7-2. Wednesday a packed house turned out, despite some early inclement weather. The Jacket bats only mustered five hits, but the hits came in crucial situations.
Gracie Burgin led off with an infield single in the bottom of the second inning. Burgin would then come home to score on a double to the fence in center by Olivia Horton to give the Jackets a 1-0 lead.
The Red Devils answered in the top of the fourth. With a runner on first Caleigh Kirby made the most of Jackson’s second, and last hit of the game. She doubled down the line in left, tying the game at 1-1.
The Yellow Jackets responded in the bottom of the fifth. Sophomore Lauren Erickson hit her first ever home run Tuesday night, and wasted no time in hitting her second. Erickson drove a Mackenzie North pitch deep to center, it cleared the wall, the Jacket fans erupted and Southeast Bulloch took a 2-1 lead.
“That was a huge home run to put us up 2-1,” said Civalier. “She had a good at bat, and came through once again. For a sophomore to step up like that, it was huge.”
The Jackets added an insurance run in the bottom of the sixth. Barnard doubled to lead off the bottom of the inning. She was lifted for pinch runner Addison Hood who scored on an RBI single to center by Gracie Burgin.
Civalier explained after Tuesday’s game how she feels Barnard turns up the heat when she gets a lead and tastes victory. Wednesday Barnard lived up to her coaches words, as she did not allow a hit, and with the tying run at the plate in the seventh, she struck out the final batter of the game to seal the deal.
“She picks things up and puts it in another gear when she gets a late lead,” said Civalier. “I could tell she had a little extra gas on those pitches, particularly in the seventh.”
Up next for the Yellow Jackets they will host Appling County in a best of three series with a doubleheader Friday at a yet to be determined time.