GHSA softball playoffs first round
(best 2 of 3 with doubleheader starts)
• Dalton (13-17) at Redan, 2
• South Atlanta at Northwest Whitfield (27-3), 5
• Chamblee at Heritage (24-6-1), 5
• North Oconee (15-17) at Ringgold (24-5), 5
• Oconee County (18-13) at Lakeview-F.O. (17-15), 5
• North Murray (13-16) at Franklin County (22-10), 5
• Lovett (10-15) at Dade County (14-11), 5
• Chattooga (22-8) at Wesleyan (23-8), 5
• Gtr. Atlanta Christian (10-10) at Calhoun (22-10), 6
DALTON, Ga. — It's not surprising that few people took Dalton seriously heading into last week's Region 7-AAAA softball tournament. The Lady Catamounts went 1-9 in subregion play, after all.
The skeptics don't know Allie Blackwood, and they likely have forgotten the team's recent history. With the senior pitcher and third baseman hitting .500 and allowing one earned run in six games, Dalton not only earned its way into today's first round of the GHSA state tournament but did so as a No. 3 seed.
The Lady Cats travel to Redan for a doubleheader start to their best-of-three series at 2 p.m.
"I'm sure no one was talking about us, but we did nearly the same exact thing a year ago," said coach Jeff McKinney, who as an assistant coach on last year's team that earned the region's fourth seed after a surprising tournament run. "With Allie, though, we can play with anyone. She has the desire and the talent to be one of the best in the area, and when she's on, we're on."
Blackwood excels despite having been diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes in January of her freshman year. She had to learn to deal with the illness, but it never derailed her athletic career.
"It was tough at first because I didn't know what was going on," Blackwood said. "I was sleeping a lot, I had no motivation and my head constantly hurt. My doctor said people with Type 1 usually get it a lot younger and that it might be more difficult to manage at first."
Her first 12 months with the illness included four self-injected insulin shots a day. Once she proved her body could handle it, she was set up with an insulin pump. She has flourished since then, though long tournaments often take a toll.
"For some reason if I have to play an early game my sugar will drop and it tires me out, but most of the time it doesn't bother me," she said. "My doctor said he believed by now we would have had to adjust my insulin intake, but we haven't had to and he believes athletics play a big part in that."
McKinney said her attitude has rubbed off on her teammates.
"She manages it greatly," McKinney said. "The only time I can tell it bothers her is during tournaments, but she never uses it as an excuse and never complains. It's something that definitely wears off on her teammates because they see how hard she works. She could use it as a crutch, but she never has."
Blackwood hopes to continue playing softball in college, and she believes a strong state-tournament run could open some eyes. Either way, she isn't ready to end the team's surprising run.
"We made the state last year, but we were very nervous and we didn't play well," she said. "This year we know what to expect and all five of us seniors want to go out on a high note. We're very focused to get it done."
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 ...