November 26, 2020

A Macknificent Day! White’s milestone bombs send Lady Braves to Final Four

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

(Nashville, GA) — Opposing pitchers and coaches have faced the same dilemma in the state playoffs when taking on Heard County the last two weeks — how to deal with Lady Brave junior slugger Mackenzie White when she strides to the plate.

Some coaches have chosen to give White the “Barry Bonds” treatment by intentionally walking her in almost every situation, while others have taken calculated chances at trying to pitch to her.

Like several other teams before them, the Lady Rebels of Berrien were unable to solve that problem in Nashville Tuesday, and as a result, the Lady Braves are headed to Columbus as one of the Final Four teams with a shot at claiming the 2020 Class AA State Championship.

Despite recording only three official at bats in Tuesday’s doubleheader, White nonetheless managed to do immense damage to the Region 1-AA Champions’ hopes and dreams of staying alive and moving on to Columbus.

White scorched a 3-run homer in the top of the first inning of game one Tuesday to put the Lady Braves in the lead 3-0 early. Five Lady Braves had crossed the plate and the Rebels were already in serious trouble before they had even sent one player to the batter’s box.

White’s homer was her team high 13th of the season to tie Heard County softball’s single season record held by former star catcher Anna Shelnutt.

Senior Beth Taylor and Janiyah Strong would later add to the Rebel troubles with three RBIs apiece and the Lady Braves went on to take game one by a final score of 17-3 in five innings.

Strong’s most damaging blow came via one of the longest Lady Brave homers this season to extend the lead to 14-1 in the top of the fourth inning.

Emma Helton had a big day for the Lady Braves Tuesday with 5 hits (Photo: Tammy Bailey

Senior Alyssa Hall continued to be one of the toughest outs in the line-up going 4-for-4 in the game with a double and three singles.

Speedy leadoff hitting shortstop Emma Helton was also a tough out as usual ending the game with two base hits and two stolen bases.

In the circle, freshman LilyRae Fulford continued to handle herself like an upperclassmen with another solid job of limiting the opposing offense. Fulford pitched three innings giving up four hits and one earned run.

Chloe Scarbrough pitched the final two frames in relief of Fulford giving up a pair of runs while striking out two Rebel hitters.

Mackenzie White followed up her game one sheroics with an even bigger and more historical moment in game two.

With a lesson learned by the Rebels in game one, White had drawn intentional walks in several subsequent at bats.

As White came to the plate in the bottom of the second inning in game two, the Rebels were trailing just 3-2 but had no where to put her with the bases full of Lady Braves. Rather than give the Lady Braves a two run advantage by walking White, three Rebels chose to pitch to her and paid a big price as White again sent a towering fly over the left field fence to put the Lady Braves up 7-2.

The grand slam not only established White as the new single season home run queen in Heard County history but also broke the backs of the Rebels who were unable to rebound from the big blow.

The Lady Braves again notched a 10-2 victory in five innings following a walk-off RBI squeeze bunt by second baseman Zekylah “Z” Boyd.

Boyd and Abigail Lathrop each had two hits in the win. Emma Helton again had a solid performance going 3-for-4 with two bunt base hits, two runs scored, and two more steals. Helton leads the squad in stolen bases this season with 18 followed by Boyd with 16.

Fulford went the distance in game two tossing all five innings to earn her 20th win of the season to just four losses. Guate-Ballin’ gave up just two earned runs and although she hit one batter with a pitch, she again recorded zero walks. The freshman has walked just nine hitters (two intentionally) in 135.1 innings this year with an ERA of just 2.22.

Defensively, the Lady Braves continued to make great plays including a diving grab in foul territory by left fielder Courtney Cannon in game one.

In game two, sophomore Taylor Bailey got an important out to stop a possible Rebel rally when she gunned down a runner at second after hustling to back up an errant throw.

The Lady Braves will travel to Columbus this Friday for the Final Four double-elimination state tournament where the Lady Braves hope to claim the second Class AA State Softball Championship in school history.

In game one at 3:00 PM Friday, the Lady Braves will battle The Lovett School, the Champions of Region 6-AA.

On the other side of the bracket, Bremen will face the State’s No. 1 ranked team Vidalia. The two winners will square off Friday night at 7:00 PM as will the two losers with the State Championship Finals scheduled to begin at 4:00 PM Saturday afternoon.

Mackenzie White was excited about her team’s big win and to break the school record.

“It’s just pretty awesome to get this milestone on this stage that helped get us to the Final Four. Anna Shelnutt is just such an amazing player and I am just so honored and happy to be able fill some big shoes,” said White after the game.

“I think the key going forward to the Final Four is for us to keep our positive attitudes and a good mindset, because right now we are riding on the biggest high ever.”

Head coach Matt Hornsby was again pleased by his team’s execution in al phases of the game.

“We had what we thought was pretty good information about what their pitchers were going to do and we knew they were going to have some really good athletes in their lineup and be able to swing it,” Hornsby said.

“But we really thought if we could get to their pitching we would give ourselves a good chance and that is what we did. I think we are as impressive as we were at Dade last week if not more impressive in these two games at executing our game plan. Our girls did a great job of adjusting.”

“LilyRae did a great job and threw well as usual and Chloe didn’t have her best stuff in game one but she did a good job of keeping us in it,” Hornsby said in regards to the work of his freshman pitchers. “We are going to need both of these girls as well as our other pitchers that didn’t get in there today as we move forward to Columbus.”

Hornsby says it was fitting to see Mackenzie White write her name so firmly in the Lady Brave record books.

“To be honest, Mack has of course been wanting to break the record but she hasn’t been trying to break the record and there is a big difference there. For the last month, she’s known that we needed her to keep the ball out of the air and she’s done that. I can’t think of a more deserving person to get the record. She and Anna were already very similar players so it is kind of cool that they are the ones sitting at the top of that list.”

Stay tuned to HeardCitizen.com for a complete preview of the Class AA Final Four this weekend in Columbus with details on tickets, directions, and the complete schedule for Friday and Saturday.

Comments

  1. #bravesnations at it’s finest GREAT JOB LADY BRAVES!

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: