Ola again denies Northgate a championship

by Doug Gorman

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Northgate's championship hopes at Saturday's Georgia High School Association Elite 8 Softball Tournament in Columbus were dashed again at the hands of region rival Ola.

COLUMBUS - The Northgate Lady Vikings' (28-9) hopes of winning the Class AAAAA state title came to an end on Saturday.

Region foe Ola (32-7) spoiled the Lady Vikings' party, coming out of the loser's bracket to beat Northgate twice, 8-5 in the first game and 9-6 in the second.

The Lady Mustangs needed a marathon day of softball to win the Class AAAAA title.

Ola played and won three times.

The Lady Mustangs started the day with a 2-1 win over Houston County, rallying with runs in the sixth and seventh to set up their showdown with the Lady Vikings.

Northgate and Ola have faced each other in key international tiebreakers before.

The Lady Vikings also lost in nine innings to Ola in the Region 4-AAAAA tournament.

Northgate jumped on its first three opponents at the Elite 8 tournament, beating Creekview, Loganville and Houston County by a combined 20-1 during the first two days of the tournament.

McKenzie Peace took the loss in both games, but had an outstanding tournament while pitching every inning for the Lady Vikings.

On Saturday, the bats stayed hot, but too many errors hurt the Lady Vikings' hopes of bringing home the second title since 2011, and the third in school history. Northgate made four errors in the first game and two in the second.

Northgate head coach Lisa Skelton knew her team faced a tough challenge once Ola escaped the losers bracket.

'They are a good team,' she said. 'We knew if we had to play them it was going to be a battle between two really good teams.'

Ola's Savannah McHellon turned in a dominating performance in the nightcap, pitching Ola to the title but also letting her offense help her team's cause with a grand slam in the second to give the Lady Mustangs a 5-0 lead. 'She is really a complete player,' said Skelton. 'When she is out there, you not only have to worry about her pitching you have to worry about her bat.'

Northgate rallied with five straight runs, but it wasn't enough in the end.

The Lady Vikings sent the game to the international tiebreaker in the second game thanks to some dramatics in the seventh inning.

Trailing 5-4, Brenna Skalski led off the inning with a single, and went to second on Lauren Deloach's sacrifice. A wild pitch helped Skalski reach third.

From there, Northgate took advantage of some bad fielding by Ola as Jenna Pealor hit the ball to third. Skalski came home on the play and made it safely under the tag attempt to tie the game.

Each team added one run in the eighth inning, but the Lady Mustangs broke the game open in the ninth on Jessica Couch's three-run homer.

Skalski singled in the Northgate's half of the ninth, but the game ended with her stranded.

Jessica Houk started the comeback attempt for the Lady Vikings with a double in the fourth.

Brittany Futral singled in the inning to drive in Casey Kent and Houk to cut the lead to 5-3.

Futral also reached on a fielder's choice and scored the fourth run in the sixth inning.

'I thought we played really well at times,' Skelton said. 'We just made mistakes, and you can't do that against a team like Ola.'

Ola forced the second game with the Lady Vikings using a potent display of offense.

The Lady Mustangs pounded out 11 hits and also took advantage of four errors by Northgate.

The loss in the first game spoiled Pealor's offensive performance. The Lady Vikings' third baseman just missed hitting for the cycle after hitting a home-run single and a triple.

Pealor's solo shot in the first inning gave the Lady Vikings one of their few leads of the game.

Northgate finished the game with seven hits. After tying the game at 5-5 in the top of the fifth, the Lady Vikings were unable to hold on to the momentum, giving up three runs in the bottom of the fifth.

The Lady Mustangs added their final run in the sixth.

Northgate attempted one last rally in the top of the seventh, when Pealor reached on an error and Echols singled, but the Lady Mustangs were able to get out the inning to end the game.

Pitcher Peace tossed more than 100 pitches, striking out two and walking five.

McHellon had the hot bat for the Lady Mustangs, logging four RBIs. Rya Moncus got the win with four strikeouts.



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