High School Softball
Lady Vikings forced to go the distance again
HAMILTON - If Northgate's softball team is going to return to the GHSA Elite 8 Softball Tournament in Columbus, they'll have to do it the hard way.
For the second time in as many weeks, the Lady Vikings will have to play a deciding third game if they hope to keep a successful 2013 season alive.
After advancing past a tough Greenbrier program ranked No. 4 in Class AAAAA at home in the first round, Northgate came a run short of getting past Region 1-AAAAA champion Harris County on the road, defeating the Lady Tigers 6-5 over eight innings in game one, but unable to complete a comeback in the finale while losing 8-7 despite a combined 25 hits in the doubleheader.
Brenna Skalski led the Lady Vikings with five hits and Emily Heath added six RBIs over the two games.
Northgate now heads back to Harris County for Game Three today at 4:30 p.m., with the winner advancing to next week's state championship tournament.
On Wednesday, the visiting team won twice by pushing go-ahead runs across in the top of the final inning. It began with Northgate holding off a late surge by Harris County in the opener after the Lady Tigers tied the game with a two-run homer by Kayla Cotton in the bottom of the seventh inning to force the international tiebreaker.
The top of the eighth saw Jessica Houk plate teammate Ebonee Echols with the Lady Vikings' eventual game-winning run on an RBI single. The defense then held in the bottom of the inning, highlighted by a relay from pitcher McKenzie Peace to catcher Brittany Futral that gunned down Harris County's lead runner from third with a tag for the second out of the inning.
Northgate was able to hold on in the opener after taking an early 5-2 lead following a fourrun fifth inning where Futral, Skalski and Carly Alderman quickly loaded the bases on three consecutive hits, the latter on bunt singles. Heath's one-out triple quickly emptied them to put the Lady Vikings ahead 4-2 before scoring on Echols' RBI single.
Heath finished Game One with 4 RBIs in a starting lineup where every Northgate player had at least one hit. Heath, Skalski and Alderman each had a pair in the victory.
Harris County used the long ball, however, to jump ahead quickly in Game Two, scoring seven runs between its first two trips to the plate.
Abby White's leadoff homer in the top of the second allowed the Lady Tigers to regain the lead after Northgate had tied the score at 2-2 in its first at bat.
Then after loading the bases on three singles, Harris County's Erin Dansby connected for the team's third home-run of the doubleheader with a grand slam.
The Lady Vikings, however, clawed back in the fifth and sixth innings, pulling within 7-5 in the fifth before tying the game on Futral's two-out, tworun homer.
Ha r r i s , though, aga in reclaimed the advantage - this time for good - in the seventh on Sarah Kate Jenkins' RBI two-out double for a 7-6 lead.
Northgate put the tying run at second in the bottom of the inning with two outs when Echols and Casey Kent both connected for singles. Echols, though, was thrown out by Jenkins trying to steal third to end the game.
Skalski went 3-for-4 in game two with an RBI to lead the Lady Vikings while Echols, Kent, Mackenzie McCloud and Futral all had two hits. Heath and Futral each had 2 RBIs in the loss.