The Lady Braves (5-AA) traveled to Atlanta Wednesday afternoon to battle the Westminster Wildcats (6-AA) in round two of the GHSA-AA State Playoffs.
The ladies were looking to do something unusual and knock off one of the private Atlanta schools for the first time and they did it sweeping a doubleheader in the best-of-three series winning game one 5-1 and game two 2-1 in a nail-biter.
The Wildcats had the potential game tying run on third base when a grounder to Alexis “Lucy” Raines would seal the win in the top of the 7th inning.
All Heard County sports teams have struggled against these private/city schools during the past several years with many a football, basketball, and baseball dream season being ended in one of these public vs. private match-ups.
The Lady Braves did not seem to be phased by the large college-like campus at Westminster Wednesday as they came in sporting a #1 State Ranking in the coaches poll and filled with confidence after a first round sweep over Social Circle.
Freshman pitcher Jordan Watson continued to shine on the mound for Coach Matt Hornsby only allowing one run to cross the plate in game one allowing only three base hits and striking out 12 Wildcat batters.
In game two, the Wildcats managed nine hits off of Watson but thanks to timely defense by the Braves were unable to score until the last inning when the one run crossed the plate.
The two victories gave Watson 22 wins on the season, a new school record surpassing Laura Hutchins 2006 record of 21 wins. Offensively, Cali Harrod continued to set the pace at the top of the line-up in the lead-off spot.
“Cali is such a good hitter she might typically bat in the three hole but we bat her in the lead-off spot to get her as many plate appearances as possible,” Hornsby said. Harrod was 4-8 in the doubleheader with two doubles and a triple.
Freshman Anna Shelnutt also continued her hot hitting driving in both runs in the finale with a total of three RBI’s on the day.
The key hit that broke open game one came off the bat of Senior left fielder Tiffany Smith. Smith’s hot shot double down the left field line drove in two runs in game one and she also added a third RBI on a ground-out.
“Defense and pitching was a big key for us today. Jordan pitched well and the defense stranded a lot of runners on base which is so important,” added Hornsby. Smith gunned down a Wildcat base runner trying to stretch a double into a triple early in game one and Senior Jasmine Cook also made a diving catch to rob another Wildcat base hit.
Sophomore Cali Harrod
Raines had to leave game one after a leg injury during warm-ups caused swelling on her shin but after icing it down for the remainder of the game she was able to return for game two.
Madison Whitehead did a nice job filling in for Raines in the field and she also had a bunt base hit RBI in game one.
Alyssa Bishop and Anna Shelnutt both hit deep doubles in game one that would have likely been homers in most other parks but the multi-purpose field at Westminster had some very long alley’s for a softball field.
Jasmine Jacobs did a nice job calling the pitches for Watson behind the plate in both games.
The Lady Braves now advance to Columbus next week (October 25-27) for the State Tournament. The top eight teams in the state will compete in a double-elimination tournament with the winner bringing home the coveted GHSA-AA State Championship trophy.
In the first game (Thursday, time TBA) the Lady Braves (5-AA, 29-5) will take on the Bacon County Raiders (2w-AA, 28-6).
Other teams already advanced in the tournament include Jeff Davis (2w-AA, 23-13), Vidalia (2w-AA, 27-8), and Harlem (3-AA, 28-7).
The other series were all splits and will be decided in today’s third games including Bremen who split with Calhoun.