7th-inning slam sends Woodland to heartbreaking defeat

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The Woodland softball team took a 7-4 lead into the seventh inning of its Region 7-AAAAA opener against East Paulding.

Four batters into the frame, the Raiders erased the deficit with one swing of the bat from Kaitlin Walden. Her grand slam put East Paulding ahead and Kyra Lightner's two-run shot gave the visitors some cushion in a 10-8 defeat of Woodland.

"They're always scrappy and battle," Woodland coach Colman Roberts said of East Paulding. "[Head coach Dean Burrell] does a good job with them. It's one of those things. It's early, and we'll come back out here and battle."

The team showed that fight even in the final moments of Monday's heartbreaker.

Despite the grand slam gut punch, the Wildcats (1-2) staged a two-out rally in the home half of the seventh. Four consecutive singles brought home a run and loaded the bases for Ansley Evans. However, her rocket back up the middle was snagged by the East Paulding pitcher to end the game.

Overall, the Woodland offense did its job.

After Walden's two-run double opened the scoring in the second inning, Bella Carnes knocked an RBI triple to halve the deficit in the third.

A double by Carnes, who wound up a home run shy of the cycle, brought home two runs and gave Woodland the lead in the fourth inning. Morgan Bailey followed with a single to score Carnes for a 4-2 edge.

The teams then traded solo home runs with Kendyl Hardin's dinger canceling out Lexi Matthews' shot.

Following Hardin's homer, the Wildcats tacked on two more runs in the fifth for a 7-3 advantage. Jordan Duck, who finished 3-for-4 with two runs scored from the No. 9 hole, smacked a two-RBI single up the middle for a four-run lead.

East Paulding got one run back in the sixth before completing the comeback in the seventh.

After the first two batters were retired in the bottom of the seventh, Hannah Miller, Duck and Carnes hit consecutive singles with Carnes driving home her fourth run of the game.

Another knock by Bailey loaded the bases for Evans, whose liner somehow went straight into Maggie O'Kelley's glove.

Even with the defeat, Roberts saw some good things out of his offense, which managed just five total runs in a season-opening doubleheader split with Northwest Whitfield on Saturday.

"We had some kids today that struggled those first two games," Roberts said. "They were kind of panicking, but it's early in the season. The middle of our order hit today. Kendyl hit a home run. We've just got to hit together. We preach that. Everything's contagious you do.

"I'm proud they didn't lay down. It would have been very easy to lay down after the top of the seventh."

In the immediate aftermath of such a demoralizing loss, Roberts made it quite clear he's more than happy to get back on the field today at Carrollton.

"I'm glad we play tomorrow instead of waiting around," he said. "... We'll just regroup — won't have a lot of time to think about it — and come ready to play tomorrow."