Coupled with a 3-0 win in the first game, the Lady Buccaneers secured their third straight trip to the state finals, which begins next Thursday in Columbus.
In Wednesday’s nightcap, Kell (17-10) scored three runs in the bottom of the fifth to stake a 6-5 lead over Region 5AAAAA champion Allatoona (26-9). Retired in order in the top of the sixth, the Lady Buccaneers were pushed to their final at-bats to avoid having to go to a decisive third game today.
Erika Dunbar walked to begin the seventh inning, and Jessica Finch followed with a two-run home run over the left-field fence to give Allatoona a 7-6 lead.
Morgan Kazerooni, who batted 2-for-3 with a double and four RBIs, was next, and she added a solo homer to left to extend the margin to 8-6. Bre Richey kept the inning going with a single and later scored off a two-out error for the 9-6 advantage.
Casey Lewis, who allowed six runs — three earned — on five hits through seven innings, gave up back-to-back one-out singles to Kell’s Allie Sheffield and Hannah McKnight in the bottom of the seventh, but she drew consecutive flyouts to end the Lady Longhorns’ rally.
“These kids don’t quit,” Allatoona coach Troy Pirkle said. “They feel they always have a chance, and they gave their best effort. We made some mistakes in the game, and we could have folded, but knowing we were going into the heart of our order in that final inning, we just wanted to get some hits and see what would happen.
“We had some quality at-bats, and I can’t be more proud of these girls right now.”
In Game 1, Allatoona scored three runs in the fifth off two hits and an error.
Kell stranded runners in scoring position in the second, third and fifth innings before the Lady Buccaneers came up with the runs they needed.
Madisyn Escue doubled, and Bailey Crawford then singled and stole second. In the next at-bat, Dunbar made it around to third on an error that scored Escue and Crawford, and Jessica Finch’s sacrifice fly plated Dunbar with the final run of the contest.
Lewis gave up three hits, but she didn’t allow a run in securing the Game 1 shutout.
The nightcap was an entirely different affair, with both teams getting solid hits.
Allatoona took a 3-0 third-inning lead behind Kazerooni’s two-out, bases-loaded triple, which scored Morgan Nesbit, Dunbar and Finch.
Kell answered back in the bottom of the inning, however, when Sheffield’s three-run home run also plated Jill Torres and Ashley Hendrick.
Allatoona regained the lead in the fourth as Lewis scored on an error, and Escue’s sacrifice fly plated Elisabeth Federici.
Kell took advantage of two singles and two fifth-inning errors to score three runs and take its first lead of the day. Jill Torres stole home, Sheffield came home on Hannah McKnight’s single and McKnight scored on an error to give the Lady Longhorns the 6-5 advantage that they eventually lost in the seventh.
Lewis gave up six runs — three earned — off five hits to log the complete game win for Allatoona in Game 2.
Sheffield batted 2-for-4 with three RBIs and scored twice for Kell in the nightcap. McKinley was 2-for-4 with an RBI.
Sara Howard, who took the loss in Game 1, allowed nine runs — seven earned — off six hits in the nightcap. She also extended several innings by walking seven Allatoona batters.
“This team played great together all year,” Kell coach Lindsay Faber said. “To battle through the season and our region tournament and make it to the sweet 16 is a great accomplishment. We needed to get hits in a big game, and we fell a little bit short.”