October 30, 2020

Lady Brave season ends in Columbus

The 2016 Region 5-AA Champion Lady Braves prior to the trip to the State Thursday (Front L-R): Sydney Gay, Hannah Holden, Brittany Scarborough, Alexus Crawford, Mallory Gallaway, Tori Caldwell, and Brittany Graley (Back L-R): Anna Cosper, Lora Glover, Kaitlyn Baldwin, Alyssa Cosper, Haley Bennett, Hannah Stephens, Ally Harris, Hannah Sanders, Katelyn Jiles, and Aspen Barker.

The 2016 Region 5-AA Champion Lady Braves prior to the trip to the State Thursday (Front L-R): Sydney Gay, Hannah Holden, Brittany Scarborough, Alexus Crawford, Mallory Gallaway, Tori Caldwell, and Brittany Graley (Back L-R): Anna Cosper, Lora Glover, Kaitlyn Baldwin, Alyssa Cosper, Haley Bennett, Hannah Stephens, Ally Harris, Hannah Sanders, Katelyn Jiles, and Aspen Barker.

(Columbus, GA) — Another very successful season by Lady Braves softball team came to a close with two losses at the GHSA Class State Championship tournament in Columbus Thursday and Friday.

The two setbacks came in very different fashion for a team that based on preseason expectations was not expected to make it as deep in the playoffs as they did.

It was the fifth consecutive time the team led by head Coach Matt Hornsby has finished as one of the Elite 8 teams in the state.

The two losses came in very different fashions, one a heart crushing extra inning defeat to Bacon County — and the other a run-rule defeat by the juggernaut top-ranked team in the state Vidalia.

Thursday’s emotional see-saw loss to Bacon County was indicative of these playoffs for the Lady Braves as they came back from a late deficit, but this time it was the Lady Raiders who were able to pull out the 8-7 game one tourney win in eight innings.

The game was compelling to say the least and one of only three in the Class AA bracket to be decided by a single run.

The Lady Braves trailed by a score of 2-0 entering the sixth inning before base hits by seniors Alyssa Cosper and Ally Harris to make it a 2-1 game before Hannah Sanders walked and tiny freshman second baseman Hannah Holden delivered a huge double to give the Lady Braves a 3-2 lead.

Starting sophomore pitcher Haley Bennett got three quick outs before the Lady Braves would add three more to take a 6-2 lead.

The runs came via a lead-off walk to junior Anna Cosper and a bunt single that would score pinch runner Brittany Scarborough. Kaitlyn Baldwin would score on a ground-out from Harris and senior Hannah Stephens would drive home the sixth run.

Just three outs from a defeat, it was Bacon County that would next mount a big comeback scoring four runs in the bottom of the seventh to tie the game at 6-6. The key hit was a 2-run HR.

As the international tie-breaker went into effect in the top of the eighth, a hustle play by Ally Harris on a short pop-fly couple with a throwing error once again put the Lady Braves on top 7-6 heading to the bottom of the eighth where the Raiders would tie the game and then score a walk-off hit for the 8-7 final.

In game two Friday morning, the Lady Braves were no match for the Vidalia Indians, the favorites coming into the tournament who were upset by Dodge County on Thursday for their first loss of the season.

The Indians shut out the Lady Braves 8-0 in five innings behind a strong one-hitter from senior hurler Jessie Morris. Alyssa Cosper had the only hit of the game for the Lady Braves and Bennett along with Mallory Gallaway combined for the five innings on the mound.

Coach Horsnby was very proud of what the team accomplished during the season and postseason.

“You know when we played our scrimmage against Alexander at UWG to start the season — and it didn’t look anything like Heard County softball has in the past — we kept our seniors after that game and had a little heart-to-heart talk,” said Hornsby after the tournament.

“We laid out the things that needed to get fixed and get fixed in a hurry if they ever expected to get back to Columbus or even back to the region championship and they got it all fixed within a two or three week period.”

Hornsby was most pleased with the way this 2016 team refused to give up no matter the circumstances especially late in the season .

“This is probably the most scrappy team we’ve ever had at Heard County. It didn’t matter if we were down in the last inning or the first inning,” Hornsby said.

“We were down in the region title game, we lost game one in both rounds of the playoffs and they just never gave up. We couldn’t be more proud of this group of seniors — they have just done an outstanding job of showing these younger girls what Heard County softball is all about. We will miss them tremendously.”

The Lady Braves finish the season with a 23-13 record and the five seniors Aspen Barker, Ally Harris, Hannah Sanders, Hannah Stephens, and Alyssa Cosper leave with three Region 5-AA Championships under their belts.

Vidalia charged back through the loser’s bracket to the Class AA Championship game where they fell to a well-rested Harlem squad in the second title game. Vidalia won game one 3-0 before Harlem came back to claim the Class AA trophy with a 3-1 win in the finale.

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