WARNER ROBINS -- It was a fairly simple message that Georgia head coach Mike Phillips had for his softball team heading into its second game in the Little League Softball Southeastern Regional Tournament.
Beat Alabama or have its season end Sunday.
And his Georgia players responded, defeating Alabama 4-1.
Georgia got two hits from leadoff hitter Marilynn NeSmith, who also scored twice, and excellent pitching from a trio of pitchers to get the much needed win.
It was huge for us no doubt, Phillips said. It was an intense game the entire way, and I was pleased to get through it with our pitching intact. We knew that Alabama is a very good team, and they had me worried the entire game. I was glad that we came out and played like we know we can. (Fridays loss to) Florida was not the way we play the game. We didnt have any emotion.
(Saturday) was a different story. We will get to enjoy this one for a little while and then try to figure out how to beat North Carolina (Sunday).
Georgia started off well when NeSmith led off with a double. She advanced to third on a wild pitch and scored on a Kassidy Hulett ground out. Georgia added another run in the third. NeSmith again led off with a hit and moved to second on a perfect sacrifice bunt by Hulett. She advanced to third on a wild pitch, and then Hannah Griffin walked. When Griffin got to first, she continued to run and was thrown out at second. NeSmith bolted for home on the throw and in a close play was called out. After Phillips asked the home-plate umpire for help, the umpires met, and it was decided that the ball was never in control by the catcher and the call was reversed, giving Georgia its second run.
I always try to be aggressive when I am running the bases, and sometimes I get myself in trouble, NeSmith said. I got a good break from third, and I didnt think it wouldnt be that close, but they made a great play. It was very close, but I was glad they called me safe. We just all have to keep being aggressive and hustling, and we will be fine.
Georgias pitching was strong from the start. Holly Phillips started and threw two shutout innings and was relieved by Rebecca Johnson, who gave up one run on an Alexa Shiver single that scored Olivia Sinquefield.
Georgia added another run when Griffin reached on an error and scored on a wild pitch, and Mike Phillips decided to change pitcher again, hoping that he would be able to have all three pitchers available for Sundays game. The move worked like a charm as Courtney Gay pitched out of trouble in the fifth and sixth to give Georgia the win.
I was nervous when I came in, but I had faith that my teammates would make plays behind me, Gay said. We knew we had to get the win to make Sundays game important, and we did it.