TRENTON, Ga. -- Sometimes experience really is the best teacher.
Having lost an eerily similar game just a week earlier in the Georgia Region 8-AA softball tournament, Fannin County learned its lesson and made the seventh inning count Thursday in the deciding game of the Class AA first-round playoff series at Dade County. The Lady Rebels scored five runs in the seventh to pull out a 5-3 win.
Fannin (19-14) advances to the second round for the first time in school history.
"They learned their lesson," an ecstatic coach David Dyer said. "This game was just like that one, except we were the ones up 3-0 and they came back to beat us in the final inning. I hate it for Coach [Tim] Ellis because I know how hard it is to lose that way, but my girls did not let up and it paid off for them."
The Lady Wolverines (24-14) took their lead on freshman Carley Stephens' three-run homer in the third, and it appeared to be enough as Dade pitcher Haleigh McBrayer was in control despite a bit of wildness. The Lady Rebels managed just one hit through six innings, though they left the bases loaded in the first thanks to three McBryar walks.
They finally broke through in the seventh with a little help from a strong left-to-right wind. A single and two walks loaded the bases with two out before Fannin's Missy Dixon plated one run with a single up the middle. Karly Thompson then hit a two-strike fly ball that fell just out of the reach of shortstop Holly Gross and right fielder Whitney Moore, allowing the tying runs to score.
A walk to Alexis Collis loaded the bases and Natalie McLaughlin then hit a sharp ground ball that was misplayed, with the two deciding runs crossing the plate.
"When I hit that ball I was praying the wind would get it, and when I saw Coach Dyer waving the runners around, the emotions were unebelievable," Thompson said. "I know it's hard being on that side of a game like this because we were just there, but it was time for something good to happen to this team."
Fannin pitcher Sadie Golden allowed a two-out walk in the bottom half of the inning but finished a seven-hitter by getting a ground-ball out.
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 ...