No matter what happens from here on out, Evans has a spot at the playoff table.
The Lady Knights softball team used breakout innings and a strong pitching performance from Natalie Johnson to sweep Northside (Warner Robins), 12-0 in four innings and then 5-0 Thursday in the first round of the Region 2-AAAAA Tournament. Next week, Evans will play for seeding against the three other region teams still alive.
“Right now, I know we get to keep playing at least for two more weeks,” Evans coach Colette Cassedy said. “However it rolls, it rolls. They always say, in the postseason, it’s time to have fun.”
Johnson’s pitching ensured Evans (17-9) needed just one run to get a win in each Thursday game, though the bats did provide more support. In the first game, which ended early on a run rule, Johnson didn’t allow a baserunner after the first inning.
In Game 2, Johnson gave up two hits and walked five. But she kept the Lady Eagles scoreless with timely outs. In the bottom of the third, Northside had the bases loaded with two out. Down just 1-0, the Lady Eagles put the ball in play but got a tough break as a batted ball hit a runner for an out. In the sixth, a runner was tagged out at home trying to score from third on a passed ball.
As for Evans, the Lady Knights scored 17 of the day’s runs in just four innings.
Evans had a pair of six-run innings in Game 1, reaching that total in the second and third. Elyssa Melton had the loudest hit in the second inning, a home run on a line drive that scored two more and made it 6-0.
Though the Lady Knights scored one run in the first in the second game, they didn’t create enough space until the four-run sixth.
Johnson and Melton recorded back-to-back hits to ignite the threat prior to Jenna Cliatt’s three-RBI double.
That was more than enough for Johnson.
“It definitely means a lot,” Johnson said about clinching a state playoff berth. “I’m very proud of this team. They worked hard and had my back 100 percent. It feels good.”