SUWANEE — For the second-straight week, Commerce took on a highly-ranked Gwinnett County team on the road. And for the second straight week, it walked out of the ball park thinking it should have won.
The Tigers lost 6-5 Wednesday (Oct. 14) to Class AAAAAAA No. 8-ranked Peachtree Ridge after putting up a furious two-out, four-run rally in the top of the seventh inning. Commerce fell to Dacula, a Class AAAAAA program in Gwinnett County, 5-4 six days earlier.
“I just think they’re a great team,” Commerce coach Melissa Mullis said of Peachtree Ridge, “and I think that we didn’t come out ready to play our game. That’s ultimately it. I think that if we play our best game, we win with what he (Peachtree Ridge coach Josh Joiner) put out there. I think that he threw his No. 2 and 3 (pitchers) … We win if we play our best.”
Commerce (15-9-1) was facing a Peachtree Ridge team that advanced to Columbus last year in the state’s highest classification.
“I think that they are going to go very far,” Mullis said. “I think they’re going to do really great things, and I respect their abilities very much so. But we didn’t play our best game, and that’s all that we can control.”
Down 6-1, Commerce scored three runs in the seventh inning after Anna Taylor lined a bases-loaded single to right field that was misplayed. Taylor then came home to score on a passed ball, pulling to Tigers to within a run, 6-5.
“Anna deserves a lot of credit because she pretty much scored all those runs, with her hit and then she scored herself,” Mullis said. “I definitely appreciate her fight there.”
Carson Hobbs nearly kept the inning — and the game — going when with a hard grounder that kicked off Peachtree Ridge first baseman Madison Jenkins’ glove. But Jenkins scurried to recover the ball and flip it over to second baseman Emily Zimmerman, who stepped on the bag just in time to end the game.
The Tigers’ seventh-inning rally began with a two-out double from Paige Vickery. Landry Kate Martin then walked, and Gabbie Deaton reached on an error to load the bases for Taylor.
It appeared for most of the night that Peachtree Ridge (19-8) would win handily.
The Lions took an early 2-0 lead with a first-inning RBI triple from Kennedy Harp, who later scored on a D’Amani Gadson groundout.
After a two-out RBI single from Anna Taylor in the top of the third inning, Peachtree Ridge answered with three more runs in the bottom half, getting an RBI triple from Jaylah Jarrell, a sacrifice from Samantha Brown and an RBI single from Gadson to move ahead 5-1. The Lions then picked up an insurance run in the bottom of the fifth, scoring off an error, putting the Tigers in a 6-1 hole before they caught fire late.
The Tigers used three pitchers in the contest to help prep for the state tournament, which begins Tuesday.
Rachel Morgan threw the first three innings, followed by two innings from Hobbs and one from Graci West.
“I think our pitchers gave us a chance,” Mullis said. “My strategy from the get-go was going to be to get our pitchers some time on the mound because they need that to prepare for next week. They don’t need to be sitting and waiting for one pitcher to throw.”
Commerce, which will host Class A-Private No. 1-ranked George Walton Academy Thursday (Oct. 15) in its final regular season game, opens state tournament play against a 5-11 Chattahoochee County team Tuesday (Oct. 20) at home at 4 p.m. and 6 p.m.
Mullis, whose team is ranked No. 3 in Class A-Public, feels confident in her squad heading into the opening round.
“If we play our game, we should be able to win, just based off what I know, no disrespect whatsoever,” she said. “So, we’re preparing for that, but we’re preparing for (what’s) next to keep being the best we can be.”