November 15, 2018

Lady Braves sweep past Wolverines

(Franklin, GA) — The Lady Braves upended the visiting Dade County Wolverines from Region 7-AA in a doubleheader sweep Tuesday to punch their ticket to the Elite 8 big dance next week in Columbus.

It was an explosive day offensively for the top-seeded Lady Braves who peppered six long balls in the GHSA State Playoff round two sweep.

A walk-off grand slam from junior Marissa Garza ended game one as the Lady Braves won 14-5 in six innings and senior Haley Bennett tossed a complete game shutout in the 8-0 six inning win in the nightcap.

Freshman Janiyah Strong blasted 3 homers Tuesday (Photo: Penney Hood/HCHS)

Freshmen Janiyah Strong and Emma Helton each had monster efforts at the plate for Coach Matt Hornsby in arguably the team’s strongest power surge this season.

Strong went 5-for-6 on the day with three homers, a double, seven RBI’s, and six runs scored. The three dingers gives Strong 12 for the season — just one away from Anna Shelnutt’s Lady Brave single season record of 13.

Emma Helton went 5-for-7 with two homers, a double, three RBI’s, three runs scored, and a steal.

“We had talked for the last three or four weeks about how our swings had gotten away from us and how we had to do so e fine-tuning and get back to hitting the way we were back in August. We definitely swung it well tonight,” Hornsby said after the round two sweep.

“It was hard-hit ball after hard-hit ball and we’ve got to have that moving forward heading into Columbus. We even had three or four girls come off the bench with some strong at bats which is huge for us.”

Sophomore second baseman Emily Shelnutt and freshman catcher Mackenzie White each drove home runs to close out the game two win at the plate.

Bennett was especially strong on the mound in the game two win. The senior tossed all six innings scattering just six hits and a walk while striking out six. Senior Sydney Gay earned her team high 9th win in game one and junior Katelyn Jiles closed it out for her third save.

Despite the powerful young offensive line-up, Hornsby knows the leadership from his upperclassmen, especially the pitchers, will be important.

“Haley’s been awesome for us for four years and it was only fitting to let her go the distance in game two to let her take us to Columbus. We were super proud of the way she threw and it was probably the best she’s thrown all year,” said the ninth year Lady Brave coach.

The Lady Braves will await the winner of today’s series between Dodge County and Brooks County in game one at Columbus next week. The Lady Braves will face off with one of those teams at 3:00 PM on Thursday.

Senior Lora Glover says continuing to do the little things will be a key to success at the state tournament.

“We just have to keep working hard and concentrating on doing the little things,” says Glover. “We have a young team but we also have some leadership and we all just have to work together.”

Glover says that going back to Columbus will be very special for her and her teammates. She says despite a deep and talented roster that there is no jealousy or selfishness getting in the way of the success of the team.

“We are a team and we are all like sisters,” adds Glover. “It’s great to know if any of you make a mistake that you’ve got 19 other girls behind you to pick you up. Winning a state championship in my senior season would be a dream come true.”

It is the sixth time in seven seasons that Coach Hornsby and the Lady Braves have advanced to the Elite 8 tournament.

Stay tuned to HeardCitizen.com for a full preview of the OCt. 25-27 tournament once the final eight Class AA entrants are determined.

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