When two ace pitchers are going at it on a certain day with each dealing at their highest level, it’s usually one hit that makes the difference.
Sonoraville’s Kristen Davis and Calhoun’s Maggie McBrayer went blow for blow in the circle on Monday night as neither looked like they were going to surrender a single run, but it was Sonoraville’s Shayna Dutton that came through with the clutch hit that sent the Lady Phoenix to an important 1-0 victory over their cross-county rival.
With the game scoreless in the seventh after each pitcher put up zeros for the first six and a half innings, Griffin Holden stroked a lead-off single, Sandra Beth Pritchett followed with a sac bunt to move Deya Irick up to second after she came in to pinch run for Holden and that set the stage for Dutton’s heroics. After McBrayer got a strikeout, Dutton stepped up to the plate and battled, fouling off multiple pitches, before ripping a double into the left-center gap to bring home Irick for the game’s lone and deciding run.
“I really didn’t believe it after I hit it,” said the junior Dutton. “It’s like I didn’t even feel it come off the bat. I had struck out the first at-bat so I knew in that spot I had to go up there, relax and do it for the team. We’ve had some close games with Calhoun over the last two years so this is a big win. It felt like a state-championship level game.”
Dutton was one of only three players for Sonoraville (4-0, 2-0 in 6-AAA) who had hits in the game along with Holden and Haley Williams. Sonoraville coach Chad Hayes said it was one of those games where both pitchers were almost untouchable so you had to take advantage of the few opportunities you got on when runners reached base and his team was able to do that in the seventh.
“It was definitely a pitcher’s duel,” said Hayes. “I think that last inning was the only inning we got the leadoff runner on the whole night, and we needed that to be able to try to execute our small ball. We got a chance there, and we were able to take advantage of it. It’s kind of cliché, but honestly I just had a feeling Shayna was going to get the big hit there. She had a few hard hit foul balls, but I just felt like she was going to come through. And she did. She came up big for us.”
Davis earned the win for Sonoraville in the circle, going all seven innings to shut out the Lady Jackets (0-2, 0-2 in 6-AAA) as she allowed just four hits and struck out 10. McBrayer was equally impressive, pitching 6 1-3 innings and allowing one run on three hits while striking out 10.
“Kristen was huge for us, but that’s what we’ve come to expect out of her,” said Hayes. “She got in a couple jams early but was able to bare down and get out of them. And our defense was incredible behind her tonight. They made some huge plays. To beat a team like Calhoun, you have to get pitching and defense like we did tonight.”
Calhoun had baserunners reach in each of the first two innings. They had a first and third opportunity with one out in the first, but the Sonoraville defense ended the threat with a 4-6-3 double play. In the second inning, the Lady Jackets got a runner to second but Davis got a strikeout for the second out and that was immediately followed by Sonoraville catcher Pritchett throwing out a potential base-stealer at third. Calhoun coach Diane Smith said it was a well-played game on both sides and Sonoraville was the team that made a few more plays to get the win.
“Maggie pitched her tail off for us tonight, but we just couldn’t find a way to get her any runs against a great pitcher,” said Smith. “That was a game between two good teams that could’ve gone either way, but Sonoraville got the big hit and we didn’t. We’ve got to find a way to score some runs and hopefully turn things around here soon. I have confidence that we will get some positive things going.”
Calhoun’s Lona Sims was the only player for either team to have multiple hits in the contest as she went 2-for-3. Anna Taylor and Carlie Henderson also had a hit apiece, and Lyndi Rae Davis reached base twice on a walk and a hit-by-pitch.
Hayes said the win was a big one for multiple reasons and hopefully will continue his team’s early-season momentum.
“If these two aren’t the best two teams in the state in AAA, we are both certainly up there as two of the best,” said Smith. “I think it’s probably a preview of down the road this season. And any time we play Calhoun it’s big because they are probably our biggest rival. It’s big to beat them for these girls, and they fought hard for it today.”
Sonoraville is on the road on Tuesday at Adairsville at 5:30 p.m.; Calhoun returns home to host Ringgold at 5:30 p.m.