November 26, 2020

Lady Braves advance to Sweet 16

(Franklin, GA) — The Lady Braves (21-10) knocked off the Armuchee Lady Indians 3-1 in a rubber match Thursday afternoon at home to claim a spot in the GHSA Class AA Sweet 16 for the fifth consecutive season.

Sophomore Haley Bennett pitched the complete game in her third start of the series to earn her 12th win of the season.

The Lady Braves got on the board first to take a 1-0 lead in the top of the second on a pair of doubles by Hannah Sanders and Mallory Gallaway. Run-producing base hits from Hannah Stephens and Ally Harris would push across the other two runs in the top of the third.

The Lady Indians scored their lone run in the bottom of the fifth on an RBI double from junior Karsin Fallin.

The win over a scrappy Armuchee squad from Region 7-AA did not come easy as the Lady Indians loaded the bases with two outs in the bottom of the seventh before center fielder Kaitlyn Baldwin snagged a fly ball to end the series.

Sophomore Haley Bennett tossed a complete game Thursday allowing just one run

Sophomore Haley Bennett tossed a complete game Thursday allowing just one run

Seniors Aspen Barker and Alyssa Cosper led the offense with multiple hit games.

Barker was 3-for-4 with a double and Cosper was 2-for-3 with a sacrifice.

Acting head coach Trent Bianco was pleased with the way his girls came back from the loss in game one.

“Just a great job by our girls to battle in a winner take all game today,” said Bianco after game three. “Haley Bennett threw two games yesterday and comes back today and maybe doesn’t have her best stuff and is probably a little sore but she goes out there and throws seven. That just shows you what kind of mentality she has and what a great pitcher she is.”

“The key to day was our great defense and getting some timely hits when we needed them,” said Bennett.

The Lady Braves move one step closer to reaching the State Finals tourney in Columbus for the fifth straight season but will face another difficult challenge next week when they host Bleckley County (21-10), the No. 2 seed from Region 3-AA.

Having served his two game suspension after being ejected in game one Wednesday, Lady Brave head coach Matt Hornsby will be back in the dugout for the series with the Royals.

“That comeback series win today says a lot about the character of not only our seniors but our underclassmen,” said Hornsby after the series.

The coach is happy to be able to be back coaching next week, but was very complimentary of the job by his staff in his absence.

“It’s not fun having to get updates from off campus and all that I guess you take for granted being out here and being able to interact with the girls and make calls, but hats off to coach Trent Bianco, Ryan Duffey, and Laura Marshall these last two games,” Hornsby said.

“I have always said over the last few years that we’ve got the best coaching staff in the state and you know we never miss a beat with them out there — they did an awesome job.”

Hornsby feels the Lady Braves will need to play better to get past a tough second round opponent like Bleckley.

“We’ve got to come out and play better and I think all our girls will tell you that. It can’t take a 2-1 loss to wake you up. Hopefully we can get some things fixed and be out here ready to go in round two.”

The Bleckley County Sweet 16 series will open with a doubleheader at HHS with first pitches at 3:00 and 5:00 PM on Wednesday. A third game (if necessary) would be played on Thursday at 4:00 PM.

The series on paper seems to be a very even match up as both teams enter with identical 21-10 records.

Other teams advancing to the Sweet 16 and fighting for spots in the Class AA bracket in Columbus next week include: Vidalia, Elbert Co., Thomasville, Rockmart, Harlem, Monticello, Bacon Co., Social Circle, Dade Co., Berrien Co., Jeff-Davis, Oglethorpe Co., Lamar Co., and Dodge County.

The winner of the Heard-Bleckley series will meet the winner of the Bacon County-Social Circle series in the first game at Columbus on October 27.

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