With yet another conference title tucked in their back pocket, their fifth straight, the Salem Lady Greyhounds had their sights set on a little payback April 18, as they hosted their Fulton County neighbors from Viola for a non-conference softball clash.
While Salem had scampered through the 3A-1 East ranks with a perfect 7-0 mark, Viola had managed to pin a loss on the Lady Hounds (as did Highland) to keep the Lady Greyhounds from posting an unblemished regular season.
As it turns out, the Lady Longhorns were at it again, edging past Salem 5-4 under bright, sunny skies, on an afternoon made just for softball.
It's no easy task beating a talented team like Salem two times in a row, and just like Viola's victory over the Lady Greyhounds in the Highland Lady Rebel Rumble, this game was a tough, hard-fought battle.
Just how tough was it?
Ask Viola (17-10) starter Dedra Johnston.
Not only did Johnston snag a couple of liners hit her way in the game, she also took a hard shot off her ankle in the third inning and completely flipped head-over-heals in the fifth inning. Johnston charged the plate to catch a bunt attempt, only to collide with Viola third baseman Taylor Griggs, who was also headed to the plate on the play. Johnston caught the ball, ran into Griggs, did a back flip in the air and came down hard with the ball still in her glove for the out.
Despite the bumps and bruises she suffered, Johnston picked up the win, throwing seven innings, giving up 10 hits while walking two and fanning two.
Salem (14-3) hurler Leslie Taylor had another outstanding afternoon on the hill, racking up 10 Ks while allowing nine hits and just one free pass.
The Lady Hounds had several shots at logging runs, leaving the bases loaded on a couple of occasions in the first six innings, but Viola held a 5-2 lead heading into the home half of the seventh.
That's when the Lady Hounds made a late push.
Jordan Nelson (hit) led off the seventh with a walk, and after a popout, she came home as Jamie James slammed a triple to the fence in center.
Jodi McCullough then reached on an error, and as she attempted to steal second one hitter later, James swiped home for Salem's second run of the frame.
Turns out this was as close as the Lady Greyhounds could get, as Johnston ended the game by getting a popout, leaving Viola with a 5-4 victory.
Salem logged the first run of the game in the bottom of the second inning, as Nelson came home on an infield throwing error with McCullough at bat.
Salem's 1-0 lead didn't last long, with Viola crossing the plate twice in the top of the third.
The Lady Horns loaded the sacks on consecutive hits from Griggs, Leslie Barker (two hits) and Chasidy Hutson (two hits), giving Johnston a chance to help her own cause.
And help herself she did, driving a hit to left that plated Griggs and Barker, pushing the Lady Longhorns in front 2-1.
Salem knotted the game at 2-all on an RBI-single from Nelson with two outs in the bottom of the third that brought Taylor (three hits) in to score. Nelson's hit, coupled with a walk to Terra Kinder (hit) juiced the sacks for Salem, but a popout ended the frame with the Lady Greyhounds able to just score one run in the third.
Viola's next two runs came across in the top of the fifth on a misplayed infield by Heather Simmons. Hutson and Micah Thompson scampered home on the error, breaking the tie game and giving the Lady Longhorns a 4-2 advantage.
Trouble was brewing once again in the bottom of the sixth, as Salem loaded the bases with two outs. However, just like in the third, Johnston managed to get the third out to keep the Lady Greyhounds from doing major damage in the inning, ending the frame with the bases full.
Viola's last run came in the visitor's half of the seventh, as Micah Thompson (two hits) got things rolling with a three-bagger to deep right-center. Thompson came home two batters later as Misha Batterton (hit) reached first on an error, giving Thompson time to head across home plate for a 5-2 viola lead.
And while Salem did get two of those runs back in the bottom of the seventh, the Lady Horns held on to edge the Lady Greyhounds by one run.
Laci Long ripped a pair of hits for Salem, while Terra Zeigler also hit safely in the game.
The Lady Longhorns improved to 7-2 in conference play with a doubleheader sweep of Calico Rock April 19.
Viola took game one 15-5, and then took game two by a count of 13-1.
Barker earned the victory in game one, giving up just one hit while fanning six.
Johnston was credited for the win in game two, as she allowed just three hits while striking out six.
Mikita Thompson drove in six runs in the twinbill.