After watching a teammate take a called strike three on a pitch that appeared to be just off the plate, Addison Sturdivant stepped into the box Wednesday night with two outs, two runners in scoring position and only one thought going through the sophomore's mind.
"Honestly, I was praying the whole time," Sturdivant admitted. "I was just saying, dear Lord, help me trust my hands and step up."
Sturdivant, the No. 9 hitter, fouled off three consecutive 1-2 pitches against Calhoun hurler Maggie McBrayer before slapping one back up the middle that McBrayer could only get a piece of her glove on.
The infield single brought in pinch runner Anniston Hudson from third with the go-ahead run in the bottom of the sixth inning and Gordon Lee stayed unbeaten with a dramatic 2-1 home win over the Lady Jackets in the much-anticipated battling of defending state champions.
"Coach (Dana) Mull told me it was time to step up," Sturdivant said. "I just kept battling and battling and finally made good contact with it. It felt good coming off the bat too. It feels good to win this one. Last year, we lost to them by one, so this year was a lot more fun."
The game was another instant classic between arguably the two top programs in all of northwestern Georgia. Calhoun, the current No. 2-ranked team in Class 3A, has won state titles in four of the past five seasons, while top-ranked Gordon Lee (Class 1A Public) has eight state championships all time with seven coming in the past eight years.
Wednesday's game marked the seventh year in a row the two rivals have met. Gordon Lee has now won four of those seven meetings and each of the last six contests, including Wednesday's gem, has been decided by just one run, two coming in extra innings. A 3-1 Gordon Lee victory in 2012 is the biggest win for either side in that span.
"It seems like it's a one-run game either way every time we've played them," Mull said. "It's always a fun game with them and good competition."
After missing a chance to score in the bottom of the third inning, thanks to a perfect throw home by Calhoun center fielder Carly Henderson for the third out of the inning, Gordon Lee finally broke the scoreless tie one inning later.
Emma Minghini led off with a walk and moved to second on a sacrifice bunt by Emma Langston. An infield single by Kirbie Bradley kept the pressure on the defense as Macie Pearson walked to the plate. Pearson would drop a squeeze bunt down the third-base line and Minghini was able to beat the throw home to give the Lady Trojans the 1-0 lead.
Calhoun would knot things up in the top of the sixth inning as Molly Walker laced a 3-1 pitch off Minghini into center to bring in Henderson. However, the score would not stay tied for long.
Some miscommunication by the Calhoun defense in the bottom of the inning allowed Langston to reach first on bloop single that hit just behind the third base bag. McBrayer would get the next batter on strikes, but Pearson would come through with a single to left and a wild pitch would put two runners in scoring position with just one out.
McBrayer used the aforementioned called third strike for the second out, but could not escape the jam as Sturdivant's heroics moments later would bring in the eventual game-winner.
"I can't say enough about (Addison) battling right there," Mull explained. "The batter before her was called out on a pitch that I really thought should have been ball four, so I just told her that she had to get her bat on it. She's only been (a slap hitter) for maybe four weeks. That was all heart right there. You could see it in her eyes that she was going to get it done."
Calhoun (10-3) would get a one-out single in the top of the seventh by Lona Sims, but Minghini would get a fly ball to center and a ground ball to third to finally slam the door.
Minghini got the win, scattering five hits - all singles - and one walk as she struck out eight batters. McBrayer also pitched well in defeat, allowing six singles and three walks while she also struck out eight.
"Minghini did a great job hitting her spots and keeping them off-balance," Mull added. "We had (Langston) warming up (in the sixth inning) just to be safe and both of them have done a heck of a job all year, but (Minghini) did a great job tonight."
Gordon Lee (9-0 overall) will look to go to 5-0 in Region 6-A North play on Thursday (5:30 p.m.) when they travel to Trion for another huge showdown. The Lady Bulldogs are ranked second in Class 1A Public, but will come into the game smarting from a 2-0 loss - their first of the season - to Mt. Zion-Carroll on Wednesday.
The Lady Trojans will also be in action this weekend at a tournament in Carrollton.