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BaseballJacksonville Northside erupted for six runs in the top of the eighth inning to claim the first softball play-off victory in Northside history – 11-6 at East Bladen Wednesday night in the opening round of the Class 2-A play-offs.

Junior Lacey Suggs struck out the first two Lady Monarch batters in the eighth inning, before Cassandra Reyes drew a walk. A throwing error on Alizay Brinkley’s bunt kept the inning alive, and after Breanna Mazzocchi slapped a single to right field, Reyes darted home on a wild pitch with the go-ahead run.

Freshman Maya Stanley cracked a single to left to drive in Brinkley. A wild pitch plated Mazzocchi, and Asijah West bunted into a fielder’s choice that scored Stanley. Two more East Bladen errors enabled the visitors to stretch the lead to 11-5.

“Two quick outs and then it started,” said East Bladen Coach Patty Evers. “There was a play here and a play there that were the difference in the game.”

Junior Miller Heustess dropped a double inside the left field foul line to begin the East Bladen eighth. A throwing error on freshman Faith Johnson’s grounder brought in Heustess. Suggs and junior Abby Ward beat out infield hits to load the bases, but a ground-out ended the game.

Seven errors hurt the East Bladen cause, and three of them helped the Lady Monarchs push across a pair of first inning runs. Ward snared a hot grounder at shortstop and started a double play that kept the Northside lead at 2-0.

West’s bunt single and an infield hit by pitcher Hunter Halford began the Northside third inning. Junior Daja Simmons yanked a single to left and an error and a fielder’s choice plated 2 more runs for a 4-0 Northside lead.

Suggs’ speed produced an East Bladen run in the home half of the third. The swift-footed left-hander ripped a single to left, went to second on an error, stole third and darted home on a wild pitch.

Heustess smacked a single down the left field line to start the East fourth inning, then moved to second on a wild pitch. Johnson punched a single to right field that drove in Heustess and trimmed the margin to 4-2.

An error on senior Abbey Norris’ grounder began the Lady Eagle sixth inning. Senior Anna Brewer laced a hit to right that the fielder couldn’t cut off and misplayed into a triple that scored Norris. A wild pitch brought home Brewer with the tying run.

Mazzocchi led off the Northside seventh with a single, advanced on a wild pitch and raced home with a go-ahead run when Halford belted a 2-out single to left.

Suggs drilled a line drive over the center-fielder’s head for a lead-off double in the home half of the seventh. One out later, senior catcher Lexi Dawson lined a single to left field to drive in Suggs and tie the game again 5-5.

“This group of girls never quits. They never give up,” said Coach Evers. “We had a great season. A great improvement from last year.”

Suggs batted 3-5 with a double and 2 runs scored. Heustess doubled and singled and scored twice. Brewer walloped the triple and a single, drove in a run and scored a run.

Ward, Dawson and Johnson added one hit each to the 10-hit East Bladen attack. Johnson drove in 2 runs, and Dawson drove in one run.

Heustess worked the first 3 innings in the circle and allowed 6 hits and 4 runs – one earned, while striking out one. Suggs pitched the final 5 innings and gave up 7 runs – one earned – on 5 hits and 2 walks, while striking out nine.

Halford went the distance in the circle for Northside and gave up 6 runs – 3 earned – on 10 hits, while striking out nine.

Stanley, West and Halford all batted 2-5 to lead the Lady Monarch hitters, and Mazzocchi finished 2-4 at the plate. West scored 3 runs, and Halford, Stanley and Mazzocchi scored 2 runs each.

It was the final softball game at East Bladen for seniors Abbey Norris, Lexi Dawson and Anna Brewer. “We will miss our seniors,” said Coach Evers. “Those three girls did a lot for this softball program. They will be hard to replace.”

The Lady Eagles finished the season with a 14-6 record.