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Gatewood softball off to good early start

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    Lasy Gator Ellie McMillan keeps her eye on the ball and extends her arms in a swing against Griffin Christian last Saturday. CONTRIBUTED
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    Natalie Sills kicks and fires in a recent game for the Gatewood Lady Gators who have opened the early season at 2-1. CONTRIBUTED

The Gatewood Lady Gator softball team played two games on the road in two days last Thursday and Saturday and although the Gator gals split the two games after opening the season with a 19-1 victory, head coach Daulton Veal is encouraged by the good early season push out of the gates.

Gatewood fought defending state runner-up Thomas Jefferson Academy tooth and nail on Thursday before an unfortunate spat of mental lapses and errors doomed the youthful Lady Gators late in the game after fighting to a 5-5 tie, Veal said. Thomas Jefferson plated three runs in that moment and held on for a 9-5 victory.

“Going into Thursday, I knew Thomas Jefferson (TJ) in the past couple of years had really put a pounding on us,” Veal conceded. “We jumped out to a 3-0 [advantage] in the first inning and everybody could tell we were a different Gatewood team. We had those errors in the 5 th and 6 th innings and TJ scored three times and it made the difference in the ballgame.”

If ever there was such a thing as a moral victory, perhaps that game was as the Lady Gators fought hard against a top team, came up a tad short and learned a great lesson that could help propel them into region play in the coming weeks. Only time will tell.

“For me, playing against the defending state runner-up and staying with them for that long, I feel real good about it,” Veal acknowledged. “It was the second game of the season and by far probably one of the better teams we’ll play this year. It was a good experience for the girls and we know where our bar is set.

“We know our expectations but we also know we have to keep the momentum going through all seven innings.”

On Saturday, Gatewood displayed some grit and moxie when they shook off the disappointment of the TJ loss and rolled into Griffin and knocked off Griffin Christian 6-2.

Riley Roberts was on the mound to give team ace Natalie Sills a game off and came up big for six strong innings before running out of gas and needing a save from Sills.

“I wanted to give her some work and she did a phenomenal job,” Veal said. “It was a good outing for her and will go a long way to establishing some depth on the mound. It was a good win and the girls realized when we execute small ball, big things happen.”

On Thursday, Gatewood wil kick off their home schedule at 4 p.m. when First Preparatory Christian comes calling. On Saturday, the Gator gals will hit the road to Americus for a big doubleheader against Southland starting at noon.