September 26, 2018

3-Peat! Lady Braves reap 5-AA trophy in dramatic fashion

2016 Region 5-AA Champion Lady Braves (Front L-R): Hannah Holden, Sydney Gay, Alyssa Cosper, Ally Harris, Aspen Barker, Brittany Scarborough, Anna Cosper, Mallory Gallaway (Back L-R): Harley Parker, Haley Bennett, Alexus Cawford, Brittany Graley, Tori Caldwell, Kaitlyn Baldwin, Katelyn Jiles, Hannah Sanders, Hannah Stephens, Lora Glover

2016 Region 5-AA Champion Lady Braves (Front L-R): Hannah Holden, Sydney Gay, Alyssa Cosper, Ally Harris, Aspen Barker, Brittany Scarborough, Anna Cosper, Mallory Gallaway (Back L-R): Harley Parker, Haley Bennett, Alexus Cawford, Brittany Graley, Tori Caldwell, Kaitlyn Baldwin, Katelyn Jiles, Hannah Sanders, Hannah Stephens, Lora Glover

(Franklin, GA) — The Lady Braves softball team captured a third straight Region 5-AA crown Saturday night with a dramatic come-from-behind 4-3 walk-off victory over Lamar County in Franklin.

The hard-fought win by the 2016 edition of head coach Matt Hornsby’s squad was indicative of a season where games were almost always won because of the efforts both offensively and defensively of the entire roster rather than the performance of one or two individuals.

As expected, trying to defeat a fiery and talented Lady Trojan squad for the third time this season proved to be difficult, but the girls never seem to get rattled even after a homer and two bloop hits by Lamar had them down 3-1 heading to the bottom of the fifth inning.

Fittingly, senior Hannah Stephens was at the plate when the game ended on a pair of defensive miscues by the Trojans. Freshman Hannah Holden scored from first base after a dropped pop-up couple with a throwing error.

Stephens had a huge day at the plate with good outcomes every time she put the ball in play. Stephens’ bat accounted for three of the four runs scored in the championship game despite her only being credited with one RBI officially.

Sophomore center fielder Kaitlyn Baldwin returned from a facial injury that required surgery Saturday and was also one of the heroes with the game-tying base hit in the bottom of the sixth following a double by senior Hannah Sanders.

“Lamar County has a good team and we (the coaches) tried to put into our girls’ head this week that they couldn’t beat a good team three times in the same season and as we hoped, they took offense to that,” said Hornsby after the game.

“Our team knows from the past that you don’t have to get them all back in the same inning you can chip away and get one here or one there — we got it tied up and then came back and did what we had to do there in the seventh. This could not have happened to a better or more hard-working group of girls — they are awesome!”

Senior left fielder Alyssa Cosper also shined on the big stage going 3-for-4 with a double and a stolen base. Cosper was the only Lady Brave with multiple hits against outstanding senior Trojan hurler Lexy Head. Head only allowed seven hits, two walks, and two earned runs in the game.

The Lady Braves again countered the Trojan offensive attack with another hard-nosed performance from sophomore pitcher Haley Bennett. Like Head, she also scattered seven hits and a walk to earn the win.

As she has been all season, Bennett was always around the plate and hitting her spots throwing 60 of her 93 pitches for strikes. Only two of the three runs she allowed were earned, and she earned her third win of the season over the Trojans, also the defending Region 4-AA Champions from 2015 prior to the recent off-season realignment.

“I can’t say enough about Haley Bennett,” Hornsby stated. “She has been absolutely fantastic she has been our ace and tonight show’s why she faced one of the better hitting teams in the state or at least one of the most dangerous and she stayed out of the middle of the plate just a fantastic job.”

Defense was also again a key including a nice scoop by Stephens at first base late in the game, but it was the play of freshman Brittany Graley behind the plate that continued to frustrate Trojan batters.

Remarkably, in the two games played between the two squads in Franklin this season, Graley made four outstanding catches on bloop fouls, all coming during the fourth inning of each game.

“We have talked about it several times how athletic we are all over the place to where our defense has won us games and kept us in games all season long,” added Hornsby.

The Lady Braves defeated Temple 13-1 in four innings earlier in the day to earn the spot in the final. Mallory Gallaway earned the semi-final win on the hill giving up just two hits and two walks with one earned run. Gallaway also helped herself at the plate going 2-for-3 with two RBI’s.

Hannah Stephens again proved to be clutch, twice coming through with bases loaded base hits including a bases-clearing double. Stephens career at HHS has been defined by her hot hitting late in the fall when it’s most important.

Senior Aspen Barker also had another very productive game from the lead-off spot with three hits including a double, a steal, and two runs scored. Barker’s signature this season has been consistent production and quiet leadership by example from the shortstop position.

Senior right fielder Ally Harris drove in two runs including her third homer of the season.

The Trojans defeated Callaway to earn their spot in the title game and Temple knocked off Callaway to earn the No. 3 seed at state.

The Lady Braves (19-9) will host the Armuchee Indians (13-15) in a best-of-three series to open the GHSA State Playoff beginning with a doubleheader at Heard High this Wednesday. The first pitch in game one will be at 4:00 PM and game two will follow immediately.

In the event of a split Wednesday, the team would meet again for a rubber game on Thursday at 2:00 PM also at HHS.

In the other Region 5-AA vs. Region 7-AA match-ups, Lamar County (16-10-1) will host Pepperell (20-10), Temple (7-19) will travel to Dade County (16-10), and Callaway (12-14) will travel to Rockmart (26-2).

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