COLUMBUS, Ga. - The Class AAA softball championship appears to be Oconee County's party, one the other seven teams in the GHSA Elite Eight field are having a difficult time crashing.
The top-ranked Lady Warriors (37-2), a team many believe to be the top squad in the state regardless of classification, added Ringgold to their victims list Friday in the winners-bracket final, 8-1, after rallying to break Heritage's heart Thursday night, 6-5.
Oconee, led by University of Georgia signee Geri Ann Glasco, pounded out 12 hits against Ringgold, including three from Glasco and a two-run homer by Caitlyn Glen. Glasco used her rise ball to perfection in striking out 11 Lady Tigers, the first pitcher since the playoffs began to shut down the torrid Ringgold offense.
Ringgold will play West Laurens in the loser-bracket final this morning at 9:30, with the winner facing Oconee County at 11:30 and needing to win twice to take home the big trophy.
"Oconee is a very good program," Ringgold coach Rachel Hodge said. "I can remember them from years and years ago and they've always been good and they have some high profile players. The big thing is our girls have to play together. We learned some things today and we'll come out hungry tomorrow and be ready to win and get in that championship game against them."
Oconee's two-out, seventh-inning rally to beat Heritage on Thursday may have, according to Generals coach Steve Chattin, lingered into Friday for his team. Though the Generals easily dispatched Cross Creek, 12-5, in a losers-bracket game early Friday, the extra game may have taken a toll in Friday night's 5-1 elimination loss to West Laurens.
Heritage had defeated West Laurens 4-0 in Thursday's opener, but Faith Flanders' first-inning three-run homer Friday put the Generals in a hole they could not recover from.
"We gave up too many big hits and we never got the key hit," Chattin said. "We had runners on second and third in the fifth inning and were within one hit of making it a game, but we couldn't get the big hit. They're a good ballclub, and we knew that coming down. We beat them yesterday, but if we play them 10 times it's probably an even split.
"It's an excuse, but after the emotion of last night, mentally and physically, we just weren't as sharp as we needed to be."
In Heritage's win Friday, Savannah Goldsmith and Jesslyn Stockard combined to drive in eight runs, including a three-run Goldsmith homer in the first inning. Stockard, who went 3-for-5, hit a three-run double in the seventh after Cross Creek had cut the lead to 9-5. Brandy Goldsmith also had three hits for Heritage, which later ended its season 31-9.