October 22, 2021

Lady Braves move one step closer to Columbus

(Franklin, GA) — The Lady Braves earned a hard-fought first round state playoff series win over Union County this week after battling back from a game one loss to take the final two games of the three game series and advance to the Sweet 16.

The Lady Braves will next host Dade County, the No. 3 seed from Region 7-AA in another best-of-three series with a trip to the Elite 8 State Tournament in Columbus on the line for the winner.

Impending weather from Hurrricane Michael wreaked some havoc on the scheduling of the Union series as the teams played past midnight in Tuesday’s doubleheader and were right back to the field Wednesday morning at 10:00 AM for a game three won 10-5 by the Lady Braves.

The key blow of the game three win came in the first inning off the bat of sophomore Beth Taylor who blasted a grand slam to give the Lady Braves an early 4-0 lead and one they would never relinquish. Taylor had three hits in the game and five RBI’s.

After starting the season on the JV squad, Taylor has come on down the stretch to become one of Coach Matt Hornsby’s top weapons at the plate. In just 26 varsity at bats this season, Taylor has three homers and 15 RBI’s.

“Beth has come on and done a fantastic job for us,” says Hornsby. “It is just awesome to have so many people step up whenever you need them to.”

Freshman Abigail Lathrop

Another hot hitter of late has been freshman first baseman Abigail Lathrop and she had another big day at the plate in game three with two hits including a double and three batted in.

Lathrop is now hitting above .400 for the season with eight doubles, two triples, and 23 RBI’s.

Freshman catcher and future Louisiana Ragin’ Cajun Mackenzie White had a hit and drove home two while freshman shortstop Emma Helton was 2-for-4 with a stolen base. Both White and Helton continued to shine with some fine defensive work in the field.

Freshman Janiyah Strong blasted her team high ninth homer of the season in the 8-3 game two win.

On the mound in the game three win it was once again the tandem of senior starter Sydney Gay and junior reliever Katelyn Jiles leading the way. Gay scored her team-high eighth win and Jiles was stellar allowing just one earned run over four innings of work while striking out four.

With senior Haley Bennett finding her stride and earning her sixth win of the season in game two, Hornsby will have several options at the pitcher position moving forward in the playoffs.

“Sydney has been our number one starter all year and although she just didn’t have it in game one, she pitched the least amount of innings and we thought she would come back strong and she did,” Hornsby said after the series. “She and Haley Bennett have been tremendous starters for us and of course Katelyn Jiles comes in and pitches lights out in relief just like she’s done all year.

Coach Hornsby was pleased with the overall grit his squad showed in battling back from a 6-4 loss in game one to advance to round two, but knows they still have much to work on improving as the opponents get better and better each week.

“At some point we have got to clean up all the little things. It happened to us in that Rockmart loss where we gave up three earned runs and lost by two. I know these girls think we are being super picky and they get annoyed with us but as coaches we have got to get those things through to them — if we want to be a team that can not just get to Columbus but to be able to compete once we get there.”

The Lady Braves (21-7, 12-0) will host Dade County in a doubleheader on Tuesday (4:00/6:00) and an if game would take place at 1:00 Wednesday if necessary.

The winner will advance to the State Tournament in Columbus October 25-27 where the top eight teams in the state will battle for the State Championship trophy.

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