It helps to have stellar pitching when it matters.
Randee Bettis hurled an eight-inning no-hitter for the Red Raiders Tuesday as Madison County (22-4) downed Heritage 1-0 in Conyers, a win that assured the girls from Danielsville another trip to the state playoffs — barring a major upset against winless Clarke Central today (Thursday).
“It was the biggest game of the year to this point,” said Red Raider coach Doug Kesler, whose squad will enter region tournament play as the number two seed as long as they defeat the Gladiators, who have been shut out in eight of 10 games this year. “Had we lost, we would probably have been a four seed (in the region tournament).”
Kesler praised the pitching of Bettis, who fanned eight Tuesday and managed to pitch herself out of a first-inning jam after walking the first two batters of the game.
“It was definitely the most important game pitched this year,” he said, noting that Gabby Gillespie also turned in an outstanding performance on the mound against Lowndes earlier this year.
Neither squad could manage much offense Tuesday, as Red Raider standout Ivie Drake hit a single, the only hit by either team.
In the eighth inning, Jordan Williams got down a clutch two-strike bunt to move Haley Gordon from second to third. Gordon then scored on a sacrifice by Kaylee Bates.
Bettis then shut down Heritage (19-7) in the bottom of the eighth, with shortstop Bri Carr fielding a grounder to the third base side and throwing out a runner at first to end the game.
MORGAN COUNTY INVITATIONAL
The win followed a weekend full of Red Raider softball action. Madison County played six games in two days this past weekend, winning five and losing one at the Morgan County Invitational.
The Red Raiders gave up just eight runs in the six games, while scoring 37. The squad played two games Friday, defeating Duluth 4-0 and Alcovy 7-3, then played four Saturday: downing Rockdale 9-1, Oglethorpe County 6-0, Heritage 10-2 and losing to Duluth in the finals 2-1 in eight innings.
“We had some people do some good things,” said Kesler, who noted that Sam LaZear and Bettis had some good games offensively. “All of our pitchers pitched well the whole weekend. Offensively, Kaylee Bates had a great weekend. Haley Gordon played well Saturday morning. Ivie (Drake) continued swinging the bat really well.”
Drake, a sophomore catcher, has led the team all year at the plate, compiling eye-catching numbers. Through 25 games, she is batting .532, with a 1.065 slugging percentage, a .667 on base average. She has 11 doubles, three triples, eight home runs and 42 RBIs.
Kesler said his team is playing well, but the Red Raiders could improve in clutch times, he said.
“When the pressure is on, we’ve got to be able to compete and make the play and get timely hits when needed,” said Kesler. “If we do that, we’ll have a few more weeks to play.”
The Red Raiders could make up a game next week against Greenbrier that was cancelled due to rain earlier this year. But a Thursday 5:55 p.m. game against Clarke Central is the last regular season game on this year’s schedule. That game will also be “senior night,” with Sam LaZear and Olivia Duncan being honored.