RINGGOLD, Ga. - They are two of the top-ranked softball teams in Georgia in their respective classifications and strong rivals at any time, yet when Catoosa County neighbors Heritage and Ringgold met Saturday, the focus was not just on winning a game.
Heritage, the top-ranked team in Class AAAA, won the six-inning game 5-2, using three pitchers to quell a late Ringgold rally. Each coach saw some good and some bad in their LFO Invitational Tournament contest at the Jack Mattox Complex.
With nine freshmen making up half his roster, Heritage coach Steve Chattin is still trying to see what he has to work with, while Ringgold coach Rachel Hodge is working in five new starters. Though each wanted to win, the main goal Saturday was preparing for the long season ahead.
"Right now we're trying to find the right combinations," Chattin said. "We've got 18 kids and 12 of them I think of as starters, and we're working on the pitching rotation. We're playing extremely tough competition and we expect to get everybody's ace, so it's a matter of the girls, especially with nine freshmen, understanding that these games are important."
Two of Chattin's ninth-graders stood out Saturday. Pitcher Taylor Moran earned the win with five tough innings, while leadoff hitter Olivia Tamewitz had two of the Generals' five hits, stole two bases, drove in a run and scored one. Her two-out infield hit gave Heritage a 2-0 lead moments after Shea Headrick's single plated the game's first run.
Heritage plated three in the fifth, with Tamewitz starting the inning with a bunt single. She stole second base and scored after stealing third on a Ringgold throwing error, one of two misplays in the inning. Senior Savannah Goldsmith drove home the final run with a single to right.
The Lady Tigers rallied for a run in the fifth on Lacey Loy's double, then got within 5-2 on Ericka Bynum's RBI single. The bases were loaded with two out when Heritage reliever Lauren Lawson got Loy to ground out to end the game.
"We're still trying to jell," Ringgold's Hodge said. "Our talent is there, but we have to get it working together. We've seen bits and pieces of greatness, so we know it's there. As we grow as a team, with the young girls and with the more experienced ones, we'll be OK. These preseason tournaments are all about learning from your mistakes."