November 20, 2017

Lady Braves Tame Tigers and Fry Bacon in Columbus

(Columbus, GA) — Things probably could not have gone any better for head coach Matt Hornsby and the Lady Braves softball team in Columbus Thursday where they took care of business winning their first two games at the  GHSA Class AA State Championship Tournament.

Junior Jordan Watson continued to pitch as well as she has in her entire career extending her scoreless streak to 41 innings as the girls shut out the Swainsboro Tigers 4-0 and the Bacon County Red Raiders 8-0 in  just five innings.

The two wins put the Lady Braves in prime position heading into day two of the three-day tournament as they aim for the first ever GHSA team state championship in the history of Heard County.

The Lady Braves will face off Friday with the Vidalia Indians from South Georgia’s Region 3-AA in the winner’s bracket final at 5:00 p.m. in the stadium at the South Commons Softball Complex where all classifications are holding their respective state tourneys.

Vidalia knocked off fellow Region 3-AA Jeff Davis 6-3 and Social Circle 2-0 to earn their spot in today’s big game.

Everything will be on the line in the contest where the winner between the Braves and Indians will advance to Saturday’s State Championship with the advantage of only needing one win versus the winner of the loser’s bracket who would have to defeat them twice to earn the state title.

Gordon Lee, the #1 team in the state according to the AJC, was upset by Jeff Davis 4-3 in eight innings in their first game Thursday throwing a huge wrench into the championship contention picture as now Gordon Lee would need to win three games today and three games tomorrow to take home the trophy.

The theme for the Lady Braves Thursday seemed to be much the same as it has been during the entire postseason: stellar pitching, solid defense, and timely hitting from the whole line-up.

In the 4-0 win over Swainsboro, Jordan Watson tossed all seven innings giving up just two hits and one walk while striking out six.

Coach Hornsby is proud of his pitcher and his defense over the past few games.

“It’s not just Jordan — now don’t get me wrong she is pitching as good she has in her career — but she now has the defense to back her up that she may not have had in the past,” said Hornsby. “All of our fielders are staying ready on every single pitch with great concentration.”

Catcher Anna Shelnutt keyed the run scoring with three hits versus the Tigers while Watson and Alexis Raines each had an RBI.

Jordan Watson extended her scoreless inning streak to 41 innings Thursday in two big opening day wins in Columbus

Jordan Watson extended her scoreless inning streak to 41 innings Thursday in two big opening day wins in Columbus

Coach Hornsby’s strategy of stacking his best hitters one after another at the top of the line-up has paid off to the tune of a record of 8-0 with a run differential of 58-1 in the playoffs.

Even with Watson’s amazing pitching and the great hitting at the top of the order, perhaps the biggest story of the title run has been the production from the bottom of the line-up.

In game two Thursday versus Bacon County, junior left fielder Madison Whitehead broke the contest wide open with a bases loaded double in the bottom of the third inning giving the Lady Braves an insurmountable lead over the Raiders.

Whitehead’s hit followed another huge hit from third baseman Hannah Sanders which drove in two. Johanna Beyer and Hattie Yarbrough also each had RBI hits in the game which started over an hour later than the scheduled 7:45 p.m. first pitch due to earlier games falling behind.

Despite Bacon’s attempts to pitch around her, senior Cali Harrod still produced large with two walks and three stolen bases.

Watson only gave up two hits and two walks over five innings to pick up her second win of the day. Watson enters today with a remarkable seven straight shutouts, all coming in the postseason.

“Our girls made some great adjustments at the plate in the Bacon game today, trying to hit the ball hard on the ground and taking advantage of the hard infields down here,” Hornsby said. “This team just doesn’t seem to let anything distract them — they just want to play softball — today was just awesome.”

Hornsby is aware of the challenge his girls face in Friday’s game with Vidalia which may be as equally hot as the Lady Braves having knocked off the #2 team in the state Harlem in round two in addition to Thursday’s two wins.

“Vidalia is very athletic — they are strong and they are fast. They have a lefty pitcher that throws a lot of strikes and we are just going to have to put the ball in play and make them use that athleticism,” says Hornsby.

“They came in as a #3 seed but they are not a typical three seed — they tied for second in their region and just lost a tiebreaker. We just have to put everything into Friday’s game — we can worry about a state championship game later.”

Heard High School sent the Lady Braves off in style Thursday morning with the entire school and the Marching Braves band playing as they pulled out on the road to Columbus.

Other area teams were not as fortunate as the Lady Braves on day one. East Coweta (Class AAAAAA), Newnan (Class AAAAAA), Carrollton (Class AAAA), Central-Carrollton (Class AAA), and Mt. Zion (Class A Public) each lost their first games and must try to battle back through the loser’s bracket Friday.

 

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