November 21, 2017

Juggernaut Lady Braves Claim First State Championship

The 2014 GHSA Class AA State Softball Champions (Front Row L-R): Madison Whitehead, Alexis Raines, Hannah Sanders, Anna Shelnutt, Cali Harrod, Jordan Watson, Hannah Stephens, Sarah Schofield, Alyssa Cosper (Back Row L-R): Head Coach Matt Hornsby, Coach Ryan Duffey, Aspen Barker, Hattie Yarbrough, Ally Harris, Johanna Beyer, Katie Minix, Coach Trent Bianco, Coach Kelly Hadley

The 2014 GHSA Class AA State Softball Champions (Front Row L-R): Madison Whitehead, Alexis Raines, Hannah Sanders, Anna Shelnutt, Cali Harrod, Jordan Watson, Hannah Stephens, Sarah Schofield, Alyssa Cosper (Back Row L-R): Head Coach Matt Hornsby, Coach Ryan Duffey, Aspen Barker, Hattie Yarbrough, Ally Harris, Johanna Beyer, Katie Minix, Coach Trent Bianco, Coach Kelly Hadley

(Columbus, GA) — The winner’s advantage proved to be fruitful for the Lady Braves softball team Saturday in Columbus where they made Heard County history by claiming the first ever GHSA Team State Championship in exciting fashion as they knocked off a four time defending state champion in the Gordon Lee Trojans from Chickamauga.

The juggernaut Lady Braves battled through severely cold and windy conditions to knock off the weary Trojans 6-2. The Trojans had battled back into the championship series the hard way winning four straight in the loser’s bracket after being upset by Jeff Davis in extra innings early in the day Thursday.

Despite the blustery conditions and the coldest temperatures of the season thus far, a large contingent of Braves fans were on hand for the game hoping to bear witness to something never experienced before in Heard County.

Cali Harrod, the Lady Braves’ lone senior,  got the scoring started in the championship game as she has so many times using her speed to manufacture an early run in the top of the first.

Harrod walked and immediately stole second easily as she did so many times in this tournament and advanced to third on a sacrifice bunt by Anna Shelnutt. Shelnutt also gained first base on an error by much heralded Trojan pitcher Emily Armour. Harrod then used her speed once again scoring on a passed ball and giving the Lady Braves the early 1-0 lead.

Ace pitcher Jordan Watson continued her dominance of opposing hitters allowing just one hit over the first two innings before the Trojans struck for a run in the bottom of the third on a two out bunt hit by Tiffany Holland and an RBI double from Reagan Brown.

The run scored by the Trojans was the first allowed in 50 straight innings by Watson and the Braves defense. Even more amazingly, it was the first earned run given up the Michigan State commit through 68 innings. The last earned run by Watson had come to the Central Lions on September 29, over one calendar month ago.

Heard County fans in attendance got even more nervous as the Trojans scored another run to take a 2-1 lead in the bottom of the fourth, leaving the Braves trailing for the first time in the postseason. That feeling would turn to excitement soon after though when Cali Harrod would not be denied and stepped up to the plate blasting a solo home run to tie the game at 2-2.

The Lady Braves wouldn’t stop there, however, as they cleverly plated another manufactured run. After a walk to Shelnutt and a single by Watson a wild pitch moved the two runners to second and third with right fielder Alexis Raines striding to the plate.

Raines pulled her bat back on a fake bunt attempt distracting the Trojan catcher just enough to cause a passed ball allowing  Shelnutt to score the go-ahead run.

The Braves were still clinging to just the one run lead into the top of the seventh before they were able to plate three more insurance runs on an RBI single by Raines and a tw0 run base rip by first baseman Hannah Stephens, one of the Braves’ hottest hitters during the postseason.

The dream season fittingly ended in the bottom of the seventh with Jordan Watson on the mound. Her fifth strikeout of the day sparked a county-wide celebration that will be remembered for years to come.

The GHSA 2014 Class AA State Champions were greeted by many local fans when they returned to Heard High School Saturday afternoon escorted all the way from Lagrange by Heard County law enforcement.

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