Northwest Whitfield vs. Rutland, 4:15
Northwest/Rutland winner vs. Wayne Co./Madison Co., winner, 7:45
Ringgold vs. Pike County, 2:30
Ringgold/Pike Co., winner vs. Central, Carroll/Blessed Trinity winner, 7:45
Dade County vs. Harlem, 2:30
Dade Co./Harlem winner vs. Jeff Davis/Bremen winner, 7:45
Gordon Lee vs. Baconton Charter, 11 a.m.
Gordon Lee/Baconton Charter winner vs. Schley Co./Ga. Military winner, 6
TUNNEL HILL, Ga. - The pitching circle may have been moved back and the bats are livelier than ever, but if you want to win a Georgia state softball championship, you still need a dominant pitcher.
It doesn't hurt to have a little experience in the circle, either. The four teams representing the northwest Georgia area in the all-classification GHSA Elite Eight Championships in Columbus today through Saturday are prime examples that pitching still rules. Each of the four has a senior ace capable of shutting down any lineup.
Combined, the foursome of Northwest Whitfield's Emily Boyd, Gordon Lee's Kalei Kimbrell, Ringgold's Brittany Portwood and Dade County's Madison Gossett have a record of 84-15 this season and have struck out over 800 batters.
"You want that experience in the circle," said Northwest Whitfield coach Jason Brooker, whose team is 31-3 and ranked No. 1 in Class AAAA. "I know we're spoiled with Emily since we've been watching her for four years, but I can't imagine playing without her right now."
Of the four, though, only Kimbrell has a state ring and she got her two as the team's No. 2 pitcher behind Brenna Nation. Portwood's Lady Tigers made a run to a third-place finish last season and Gossett's Lady Wolverines made a surprise visit to Columbus two years ago and reached the quarterfinals.
Boyd, the future Ole Miss Rebel, led the Lady Bruins to a quarterfinal run in her freshman season and made the field last year in the state's second-highest classification. She likely speaks for the other three when she says this last shot at a title is weighing heavily on her mind.
"I would mean a lot since it's been in the back of my mind and it's been showing up in my dreams, even when I'm sitting at school I think about it," said Boyd, who has allowed just 68 hits in 165 innings this year. "I know we have the potential _ and we've had the potential all four years to win it all _ so it's kind of taunting me, laughing at me.
"So, yes, it would mean a lot to win it all."