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Northridge beats Hillcrest in pitchers' duel


Northridge’s Savannah Buck pitched six shutout innings, allowing six hits, for the win Tuesday. Mickenzie Sparks worked out of a bases-loaded jam in the seventh to preserve the victory. (Photo by Dusty Compton | Tuscaloosa News)


TUSCALOOSA | Mickenzie Sparks worked out of a bases-loaded, no-out jam in the seventh inning, giving Northridge a 1-0 win over Hillcrest in high school softball Tuesday.

Hillcrest’s Allison Freeman and Karley Sanders started the bottom of the seventh with a flourish, ripping a double and single, respectively. Sparks, in relief of Savannah Buck, walked the next batter, loading the bases.

With the Patriots a hit away from victory, Kailyn Dunn lined out to Sparks, who picked off Freeman at third for a double play. The next batter flied out to left field, ending the rally and giving the Jaguars the hard-fought win.

Hillcrest coach Ted Swinney said it was frustrating to lose that way, especially since the Patriots left seven base runners stranded.

"Two good teams, it’s going to happen," Swinney said. "We battled hard. We had our opportunities, but we just couldn’t come through with them."

Hannah Payne and Buck, the starting pitchers for Hillcrest and Northridge, respectively, each retired the first six batters they faced.

Through four innings, neither team had managed to score, and they had a combined five hits.

It wasn’t until the top of the fifth when Northridge (17-12, 4-1 Class 6A, Area 9) managed to score. Sarah Dubay, Madison Frazer and Sami Story reached base on three consecutive Patriot errors. Dubay crossed home when Story reached. The Jaguars didn’t threaten again for the rest of the game.

Still, the Patriots (27-10, 1-1) were far from out of it. They bounced back immediately in the bottom of the fifth, loading the bases with one out.

Two consecutive fly outs ended any chance for a counterstrike, however, and after a hitless sixth inning, the Patriots entered the final inning needing a run. They came close but couldn’t pull off the comeback.

Buck earned the win for Northridge, pitching six innings, giving up six hits and striking out one. Payne suffered the loss for Hillcrest, pitching seven innings, giving up three hits en route and an unearned run.

"Gosh, that took a lot," Buck said. "It was a great team effort."

Northridge coach Denton Bowling liked the way his team fended off numerous comeback attempts.

"The old adage goes, ‘defense wins ballgames,’ " Bowling said. "And we came out today and managed to get it done."