RINGGOLD, Ga. -- An impressive field of teams competed in the Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe Invitational softball tournament Saturday at the Jack Mattox complex, each with different goals as the high school season begins.
While fledgling teams such as Coahulla Creek were simply getting experience, and host LFO and others were trying to replace departed stars, a handful of veteran squads already have the Elite Eight in Columbus on their minds. Four of those teams faced off in the morning session, each displaying reasons why they could be playing well into October.
In the day's most interesting game, defending Georgia Class A champion Gordon Lee extended its winning streak to 44 (it would later grow to 45) with a comeback 2-1 victory over a Dade County team hoping to make noise in the Class AA postseason this year.
The Lady Wolverines, playing without ace pitcher Haleigh McBrayer as she rehabs an injury, were one out from ending Gordon Lee's streak, but an error allowed the tying run to score in the bottom of the seventh inning, and moments later Kendall Johnson scored when a pickoff throw to third base dribbled away.
While pleased her team found a way to win, Gordon Lee coach Dana Mull was not happy with an overall lack of enthusiasm early in the game.
"Nobody wants to lose, but if losing is what it takes to kick you into gear sometimes, then it's worth a loss," said Mull, whose team opened play Friday with wins over Class AAAA third-ranked Marist and Calhoun. "These girls are competitors, and they proved it the last two innings when they stepped up their games, but we're struggling offensively right now. When you're struggling in one part of your game, you can't let it affect the other parts of your game, and I think we were a little down earlier in the game.
"Hopefully that's enough of a wakeup call for them. They're talented, but they have to use that talent every game and give all their heart and desire."
Gordon Lee ace Brenna Nation allowed three hits and struck out six, while Dade sophomore Madison Gossett held Gordon Lee to two infield hits and struck out nine.
At the same time the Lady Trojans were pulling one out, Calhoun earned an impressive 4-2 win over Class AAA power Heritage. The Class AA Lady Yellow Jackets, fresh off a tournament win last weekend in Rome, return every starter from last year's playoff team and proved Saturday they are worthy of their early No. 5 state ranking.
"They're a good team, and their outfield was outstanding today in robbing us of a few hits," Calhoun coach Diane Smith said of the Generals. "We hit the ball well, and if we can keep that up we'll be OK. We love this tournament because we can face tough competition like this. That's the only way you can get better."
Calhoun, which won its final two games Saturday against LaFayette and Strong Rock, Ala., scored three first-inning runs against Heritage on three singles and a walk. Sophomore pitcher Alyssa Shawgo stranded seven runners to earn the win while Taylor Kelly, Morgan Stewart and Wimberly Roe had RBI hits.
After that tough first inning, Heritage freshman Lauren Lawson pitched shutout ball until Roe's RBI double in the sixth. Heritage's Jesslyn Stockard had an inside-the-park home run in the fourth inning and Allison Walker had an RBI triple in the seventh, her second hit of the game.
Lindsey Young is a sports writer at the Chattanooga Times Free Press who started work at the Chattanooga News-Free Press 24 years ago. He covers the Northwest Georgia prep beat and NASCAR. Lindsey’s hometown is Ringgold, Ga., and he graduated from Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe High School. He received an associate’s degree from Dalton Junior College (now Dalton State) and a bachelor’s degree in communications from UTC. He has won several writing awards, including two Tennessee Sports ...