Patrick Lewis' Georgia Impact and Mike Stith's OC Batbusters combined to strand 23 baserunners, but when Charla Echols got her opportunity, the Michigan State-bound infielder delivered.
Echols came up to bat with the bases loaded and the Impact facing a one-run deficit in the bottom of the sixth and came through with a bases-clearing double to left-center field. The Impact held on for a 6-4 victory over the Batbusters in the PGF 18U Premier national championship game on Friday evening at Deanna Manning Stadium in Irvine, CA.
"It's going to do a lot for the (Georgia Impact) organization," Echols said, "and we're just happy we can be a part of it.
"We played for each other. We always play for each other. We're just glad we can play with each other and we work hard for each other."
Lewis took his Impact team to the PGF 14U Premier national title game in 2015 and he admitted the 7-4 loss to Mark Campbell's OC Batbusters still haunted him. That was until his Impact team was able to get the Georgia Impact organization's first PGF national championship with the win over the Batbusters, which featured Campbell as one of its assistant coaches.
"It was all positive," Lewis said. "There was never any doubt. Those girls had each other's back and kept lifting each other up no matter what like, 'Let's go. We got this.' They just kept fighting."
The Batbusters lost to Bill Conroy's Beverly Bandits, 4-3, in the first round on Monday morning before the Opening Ceremonies and proceeded to win eight consecutive loser's bracket games, then beat Marty Tyson's Corona Angels twice, including a 4-3 win in 9 innings that propelled them into the national championship game. The Batbusters had all the momentum and Washington-commit Jadelyn Allchin's two-run single in the top of the first gave them an early lead over the Impact.
But Georgia, which went undefeated at the PGF championships, came right back with two runs in the bottom of the first to tie it, 2-2. Alabama-bound Skyler Wallace, who went 2 for 4 with two runs scored, got a one-out double to right-center field, Echols walked and South Carolina-bound Jordan Fabian doubled down the left-field line to drive them both in.
LSU-bound Savannah Stewart made two spectacular diving catches in center field for the Impact in the top of the second and UCLA-committed Maya Brady made a leaping catch for the Batbusters to end the bottom of the fifth with the bases loaded.
Both teams had countless opportunities before Arizona-commit Jasmine Perezchica injured herself beating out a two-out infield single for the Batbusters in the top of the sixth. Brady walked and Arizona State-bound Terra McGowan ended up driving in pinch runner Alyssa Brito, an Oregon commit, and Brady with a single to give the Batbusters a 4-2 lead.
Once again, the Impact responded immediately with four runs in the bottom of the sixth. Georgia loaded up the bases on two walks and an E-5. Wallace got a bunt single and South Carolina-commit Karly Heath scored on an E-6 to close the gap to 4-3 with the bases still loaded. Echols smacked a three-run double to left-center field that gave the Impact a 6-4 lead.
"The coaches really helped me out," Echols said. "We were going through every at-bat, trying to figure out what I was doing wrong and we figured it out and it worked."
Lewis had total faith in Echols, who was selected to the Louisville Slugger Hit Club, which features 11 of the top hitters in the nation.
"Charla has been doing that all week," Lewis said. "She really hadn't got that big hit this game, but once she got up there I knew she was going to get it done. Right before that they told me, 'Oh (shoot), we been getting runners on, but we haven't been able to push one across.' They got a ball down and Charla delivered."
The Batbusters loaded the bases with one out in the top of the seventh, but Auburn-committed Kelley Lynch, who was pitching a bend-but-don't-break style all game, got a strikeout and ground out to end the game and seal the national championship for the Georgia Impact.
2018 PGF NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIPS
PGF HIGH SCHOOL ALL-AMERICAN GAME
West 4, East 2 (West leads the all-time series, 2-1)
Georgia Impact-Lewis 6, OC Batbusters-Stith 4
Tennessee Mojo-Danley 1, Diamond Sports Hotshots-Jones 0
Impact Gold National-Smith 7, Beverly Bandits-Trackwell 3
Firecrackers North-Thomas 7, USA Athletics Gold 0
Cal Cruisers-Caouette 5, OC Batbusters-Garcia 4
Follow Carlos Arias on Twitter @SoCalSidelines.