Record-setting heat greeted the Heritage Generals and Ringgold Lady Tigers as they opened up the 2018 softball season at newly-remodeled Hazel Brown Field on Monday.
And both offenses were pretty hot as well.
A combined total of 24 runs and 27 hits were hammered out in the opener, but it was the visiting Generals who got the better of both, piling up 19 hits in a wild 15-9 slugfest victory.
Heritage batted around in the top of the fifth inning, scoring six times to push their advantage to 9-1 and were just three outs from a run-rule victory. However, the young Lady Tigers responded by batting around themselves in the bottom of the inning and putting up eight big runs to tie the score.
However, Heritage senior third baseman Reagan Armour parked the first pitch she saw in the top of the sixth just past the scoreboard in left-center to break the brief deadlock and the Navy-and-Red would score six unanswered runs over the final two innings to get the W.
"We saw just about anything and everything you could have thrown at you in a game," Heritage head coach Tanner Moore said. "But I was really pleased with how we responded. That was the biggest thing. They've now seen what it's like to have a big lead and they know how it feels to have (a big lead) completely taken away in an inning.
"But the way they responded after that (inning) was exactly they way that I hoped that they would. That's something you can't teach and our girls did a great job of it tonight."
Heritage (1-0) took a 3-1 lead with two runs in the top of the third before the six-run outburst in the top of the fifth. But Ringgold (0-1) opened the home half of the frame with back-to-back doubles by freshmen Addy Broome and Taylor Layne, while a third freshman, Ava Raby, put one just over the fence in left to jump-start the rally.
Another rookie, Baileigh Pitts, later added a two-run shot of her own and Brooklyn Keith - the Lady Tigers' lone senior - doubled in a run before Broome punched a run-scoring single into center for her second hit of the inning. Broome would move to third on a walk and a wild pitch before scoring on another wild pitch to tie the game.
But Armour untied it with her leadoff shot and Bailey Christol would later bring in a run on a fielder's choice with the bases loaded.
Senior Ansley Bice spurred a four-run seventh by tripling down the rightfield line to begin the frame and she would score on Armour's fourth hit and fourth RBI of the night. Heritage would eventually load the bases for Carmen Gayler, who drew a walk before Christol picked up her third RBI of the game. The Generals' final run would come in on a Ringgold error.
Rachel Gibson would get the final three outs in order in the bottom of the seventh to finally seal the win. The sophomore was credited with pitching all seven innings. She started the game and threw the first four, but returned in the fifth after Brinley Horner was tagged for four runs on four hits in her Heritage pitching debut. Gibson allowed five runs - four earned - on four hits and six walks with 10 strikeouts.
"Brinley is going to do a great job," Moore said. "She's a freshman and it was her first appearance, but we also didn't make some plays behind her too. She'll be fine and we'll be great moving forward."
Christol matched Armour with four hits, while Bice had three and scored three times. Senior Katie Proctor added two hits and knocked in a run, while Gayler collected three RBIs.
Broome was the only Ringgold player with two hits, while seven others had one each. Broome and Riley Nayadley also had solo RBIs in the loss.
Like her counterpart Gibson, Kaylee Phillips threw the first four innings for the Lady Tigers, but returned to start the sixth after Layne and Taylor Thomas both threw in relief for Ringgold in the top of the fifth. Phillips ended up allowing six earned runs with four walks and two strikeouts in the loss.
Despite the loss, Ringgold head coach Daniel Hackett was thrilled with the way his team rallied.
"Proving that we could put an eight-spot up when we had to, that's phenomenal," he said. "It's nice to see we can put up runs like that, especially off some good pitchers. It gives us a lot of confidence and the freshmen look pretty good. They're strong and they've come in playing good ball. We're still going to have some freshmen moments at some point, but we're going to have a lot of good moments with them too.
"I'm just glad we got to play this one before our first region game. We had a down inning, but we didn't stay down. That was a lot of fun."
That first region game for Ringgold will be on Tuesday when the Lady Tigers host Adairsville in the 6-AAA opener at 5:30 p.m. They will continue region play with a game at Sonoraville on Thursday before traveling across town for a rematch with Heritage on Friday. The Generals will also extend their Catoosa County swing with a home game against LFO Saturday at 12 noon.