published Wednesday, October 23rd, 2013

Two surprising teams join area powers in GHSA round two

Ridgeland coach Richie Wood walks back to the dugout after a timeout from the softball game between Northwest Whitfield and Ridgeland High School  at Ridgeland High School in Rossville, Ga.
Ridgeland coach Richie Wood walks back to the dugout after a timeout from the softball game between Northwest Whitfield and Ridgeland High School at Ridgeland High School in Rossville, Ga.
Photo by Maura Friedman.

GHSA STATE PLAYOFFS 2ND ROUND

(best-of-three series)

Class AAAA

• Northwest Whitfield (30-6) at Marist (20-11), 4

• Eastside (15-19) at Heritage (28-7), 5

• Ridgeland (18-14) at Walnut Grove (21-8), 5

Class AAA

• Jackson County (23-9) at Ringgold (28-5), 2

• North Murray (17-18) at Franklin County (24-6), 5

Class AA

• Lovett (14-15) at Calhoun (27-6), 5

• Dade County (22-12) at Wesleyan (21-8), 4

Class A Public

• Charlton County (18-10) at Gordon Lee (26-5), 4

With one round of playoffs to go before Georgia's high school softball elite convene in Columbus to decide championships in seven classifications, the usual candidates are representing northwest Georgia.

Then there are the not-so-usual candidates. Joining state powers Heritage, Northwest Whitfield, Ringgold, Calhoun, Dade County and Gordon Lee in today's round-of-16 action are a pair of teams few could have predicted to still be playing in late October and still fewer would give much of a shot to reach the final eight.

And that's just the way both Ridgeland (18-14) and North Murray (17-18) would prefer it.

"I said it last week, we're like Freddy Krueger. Just when you think we're dead we keep coming back," said Ridgeland first-year coach Richie Wood, whose team shocked Region 5-AAAA champion Columbus last week. "I think we were a little overwhelmed in the first game (8-0 loss), but the girls regrouped and found a way to win."

Finding a way may be putting it too lightly for the way North Murray earned its first-round sweep of Banks County. The Lady Mountaineers, who at one time late in the season were six games under .500, were trailing 8-1 with two outs and no one on base in the bottom of the seventh inning before putting together an improbable eight-run rally.

"That was magical," coach Steve Granger said. "I've never seen anything like it. I told the girls in the last inning to get something positive going that we could take into the second game. You could say they did a bit more than that. We'll still be talking about that game 25 years from now."

Both teams have their hands full today. Ridgeland is at Walnut Grove, which has lost three one-run games to No. 1-ranked Madison County, while North Murray travels to Franklin County, the champion of Region 8, which still has all four of its teams alive in the second round. Both coaches say their teams are embracing the underdog role.

"The girls seem to thrive on it," Granger said. "They know now that if we get down there's no way to count us out. The difference for us lately has been simple: We're just hitting from top to bottom, and that's what it's going to take Wednesday."

Said Wood: "Our motto lately has been, 'Do we have practice Monday?' The girls expect to, and that's all I can ask. We'll have to play our best, but I feel we will."

Contact Lindsey Young at lyoung@timesfreepress.com or at 423-757-6296.

about Lindsey Young...

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 ...

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