If there was a question about the Heritage High School softball team this season, it involved pitching. After all, the Generals returned a seasoned lineup but graduated the only main pitcher in their brief history, Marissa Patterson.
However, if any doubts remained following the end of the regular season, they were put to rest this week as Heritage (25-7) swept its way to the Region 7-AAA title. In the Generals' 5-0 championship win over Allatoona on Thursday, junior pitcher Allison Vaughn allowed six hits, all singles, and walked no one.
"Allison has been terrific all week and she has matured as the season has gone on," Heritage coach Steve Chattin said after securing the program's second consecutive region title. "She shut everybody down this week, and today she made sure her pitches were off the middle of the plate. We adjusted as the game went on, and she stayed strong."
Allatoona (21-9) reached the championship round after clipping Ringgold 5-4 in eight innings earlier Thursday. Allatoona will be the second seed from the region in the state playoffs, with Ringgold (20-11) third and Dalton fourth. Heritage and Allatoona will host first-round series beginning next Wednesday, with Ringgold and Dalton traveling.
The Lady Buccaneers were clearly not as focused in the title game, as they made three errors in Heritage's three-run first inning. The Generals put pressure on the Allatoona defense by running on everything, helping lead to crucial back-to-back errors that plated the first two runs. Renae Johnson scored the third one with a single.
Heritage added two runs in the third on singles by Kristin West, Savannah Goldsmith and Amber Burton and another killing Lady Bucs error, but two Generals were thrown out on the bases as the team's aggressive nature backfired a bit.
"We came out and did what we had to do," Chattin said. "We jumped on them early. The coaches ran us out of some runs, but the girls played well. That's our style. We used to tell them at the start of the season that we'll get more runners thrown out than anybody, but we feel that pressure will also pay off."
None of it mattered to Vaughn (14-4), who took advantage of anxious Allatoona hitters to record quick outs. She did not strike out a batter but had only one three-ball count, and only in the seventh did she allow more than one baserunner.
"it was great. I really wanted a shutout and go into next week with a positive attitude," Vaughn said. "I just kept going hard at them. I didn't really change anything from the last start against them [Tuesday]. We have to work hard this week in practice and hopefully we can reach our goal of going to Columbus [for the state elite eight]."
Ringgold tied the earlier game at 4 on Hayley Robinson's three-run home run in the seventh inning -- she earlier homered for the Lady Tigers' other run -- but lost in the eighth after failing to get a run under tiebreaker rules. Allatoona executed perfectly in the bottom of the eighth, with runner Erika Dunbar going to third on Bre Richey's sacrifice bunt and scoring on Elisabeth Frederica's sacrifice fly.
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 ...