DALTON, Ga. -- It was the outcome most expected, but though the winners-bracket final of the Region 7-AAAA softball tournament says Heritage vs. Northwest Whitfield, setting it up wasn't that simple.
Heritage's Generals, the north subregion champions, broke open a close game against Ridgeland with five runs in the fourth inning to prevail 6-3, and Northwest's Lady Bruins rallied from a 2-0 deficit with three runs in the fourth to edge south subregion champion River Ridge, 3-2.
The two winners, each having already clinched a state playoff berth, meet tonight at 7 at Dalton's Heritage Pointe Park.
Two remaining berths are still up for grabs and also will be awarded today in the 5 p.m. losers-bracket quarters. Surprising Dalton faces River Ridge, while Ridgeland goes against Cass.
"We hit the ball well in the fourth inning," Heritage coach Steve Chattin said. "Getting the state berth is the first step, but we need to keep plugging along, and that starts tomorrow with Northwest."
Heritage (24-6) got RBI hits from Shelby Hammontree, Ali Roberts, Brooklynn Frazier, Sydney Smith and Olivia Tamewitz in the decisive fourth inning, and pitcher Lauren Lawson had a no-hitter going until Dana Whittington hit a three-run homer in the seventh for the Lady Panthers (15-12).
Northwest (26-4), which was swept by Heritage during the regular season, loaded the bases in the fourth against River Ridge with consecutive singles by Colbie Thomas, Alyssa Ward and Bayli Cruse. Macy Weeks singled in one run, and with two outs Mallory Souther drove home two with a single. River Ridge had the tying run on with no outs in the seventh, but Northwest pitcher BriLeigh Baggett struck out the next three batters.
"Their pitcher was very good and she got us nine up and nine down to start, but once we got a couple of hits we seemed to settle down," Northwest coach Jason Brooker said. "We've got the state berth and now we want to get a first-round home series, and that starts with Heritage."
In earlier games Monday, Dalton defeated Southeast Whitfield 3-0; LaFayette needed eight innings to get past Cedartown, 9-2; and Cass beat both Gilmer County and Pickens County.
Contact Lindsey Young at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 423-757-6296.