published Wednesday, October 30th, 2013

Elite leadoff hitters spark four area state contenders

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    Heritage High School softball coach Steve Chattin

GHSA softball state openers in Columbus

Class AAAA

Heritage vs. Perry, 4:15

Northwest Whitfield vs. Wayne County, 4:15

Class AAA

Ringgold vs. Rockmart, 2:30

Class AA

Calhoun vs. Berrien County, 2:30

Dade County vs Jeff-Davis, 2:30

Class A

Gordon Lee vs. Commerce, 10:30 a.m.

Great pitching may be the main ingredient for all of the contending teams at this week's GHSA State Softball Championships in Columbus, but for a handful of teams there is an equalizer.

Speed.

"When you get to this level you can't sit back and wait for a big inning," Heritage coach Steve Chattin said. "You've got to make things happen because the pitching is so good."

Chattin is one of the fortunate ones. In leadoff hitter Olivia Tamewitz, he's got a player who can produce a run just by putting a ball in play. The elite speedster (she's been clocked at 2.65 seconds from home to first) enters the Class AAAA competition Thursday with a .533 average, 49 runs scored, eight triples and 35 stolen bases.

"With speed like Olivia's it puts tremendous pressure on the pitcher and the defense because they have to be perfect," Chattin said. "We feel if we can get her on base the usual three of five times, we're going to score some runs."

Three other northwest Georgia teams seeking championships also possess the type of leadoff hitter that can be the difference in a tight pitching duel. Gordon Lee's Tiffany Holland has sparked the defending Class A champions with a .547 average, 40 runs scored and 20 stolen bases; Calhoun's Ryan Brzozoski leads the Class AA Yellow Jackets with a .517 average, 46 runs scored and 35 stolen bases; and the lone senior of the group, Colbie Thomas, sets the pace for defending AAAA champion Northwest Whitfield with a .400 average, 42 runs scored and 10 triples.

"With us, what Tiffany does is a huge key," Gordon Lee coach Dana Mull said. "It's especially big in the first inning, because even getting one run can set the tone for the game. All the really good teams around here seem to have that elite leadoff person, and when you have one it puts so much pressure on a team and it leads to mistakes."

Of the four, Thomas is perhaps the most dangerous, in good part due to her experience and versatility. She can slap-hit to start a rally or she can swing away to drive in runs.

"The thing about Colbie is she's not just a leadoff hitter, and I've even been tempted to move her down in the order," Northwest coach Jason Brooker said, noting that Thomas has 28 RBIs. "But she's so good at the top and she's one of the most clutch hitters we have. She can get a little too aggressive on the bases sometimes, but I can live with it because she makes teams so nervous.

"It's nice to have her on our side."

Chattin, Mull and Calhoun coach Diane Smith no doubt echo that thought.

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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