The Ringgold Lady Tiger softball team found itself caught in a fairy tale the last two weeks. And late Wednesday afternoon, the Lady Tigers finally had their "Golidlocks" moment, finding pitching that suited their bats just right.
After Ringgold struggled with the slower pace of North Oconee pitching last week, they found themselves facing the other end of the spectrum in Dawson County ace Jenna Abbott in Wednesday's Round of 16 Class AAA GHSA opener.
Ringgold (28-2) survived everything Abbott had to throw at them in a 1-0 victory before exploding for 11 runs on 13 hits in an 11-0 five-inning bout in the nightcap to advance to next week's Elite Eight bracket in Columbus, Georgia for the third consecutive year.
"Oh man, it feels good to get back," said senior Devan Brown, who played a key role in ensuring the Lady Tigers' return.
Brown, a University of Tennessee recruit, battled Auburn-bound Abbott tooth-and-nail before doubling down the line and scoring on Lacey Loy's RBI-single in the 1-0 win.
"She's the best pitcher we have faced this year, but I was determined to win the battle. I was not going to give up. It's an honor for us to be heading back to Columbus," said Brown, who had three hits in the second game and scored three runs.
Opening game pitcher Brittany Portwood made the lone run stand, retiring 20 of 21 hitters in the one-hit shutout.
"Brittany was phenomenal. I don't think she missed a spot on any pitch today. We knew the lefty [Abbott] would be tough, but we had a game plan, and Devan and Lacey came through," said Ringgold coach Rachel Hodge. "I love 1-0 games as long you win them."
She didn't mind the 11-0 thrashing much either, especially with the way the bats finally awoke.
"It's tough going from one type of pitching to another, especially with these week-long breaks in between. I'm just happy to see them come alive at the right time," Hodge added.
Ringgold freshman Abby McKinney was almost as dominating in the pitching circle, tossing a three-hit shutout with a pair of walks and the second-ranked Lady Tigers scored two in the first and added four spots in the third and fifth innings to close it out.
Ericka Bynum hit a big two-run homer in the first in what was a sign of things to come. Among the 13 hits were several other noisy outs as Ringgold found its timing.
Freshman Taylor Chadwick and Chandler Turner each drove in two runs and Brown, Portwood, Loy, Jessica Goldsmith and Sarah Beth Lance each had RBI hits. Bynum and Portwood each had two hits to go along with Brown's 3-for-3 game.
Abbott had the only hit for Dawson County (19-9-1) in the first game and had two of the team's three hits in the second game. She struck out 10 Ringgold hitters in allowing just three hits in the tough-luck loss.
Ringgold finished third last year in Columbus after a fifth place finish the year before and Hodge hopes that this year's trip will end "just right" for them.
"Our goal was not only to return but is to win it all," said Hodge. "If we pitch and play defense and hit the ball like we are capable, I like our chances."