DALTON, Ga. - If the goal of every athletic team is to peak at playoff time, the Heritage Generals seem to be right on track, based on Tuesday's 8-0 win over Northwest Whitfield in the Region 7-AAAA tournament.
Heritage (25-6) scored five runs in the opening inning of the winners-bracket final, hit two home runs, had another strong pitching outing from Lauren Lawson and earned the praise of their veteran coach following the five-inning win.
"I thought this was the most solid game we have played in three or four years against a solid opponent," Steve Chattin said. "We came out very focused. Putting a five-spot on them in the first inning certainly helped our confidence tonight. The biggest thing about tonight is we get to host a first-round series. Now the next step is go out Thursday and win a region championship."
Heritage will play the winner of Thursday's 5 p.m. losers-bracket final between Northwest and River Ridge at 7 at Dalton's Heritage Pointe Park. The Generals can wrap up the region championship with a win there or in an "if necessary" game Saturday.
Earlier Tuesday, Ridgeland (16-12) won its way into the state tournament field with a 1-0 win over Cass and Dalton was eliminated by River Ridge, 8-0. River Ridge then edged Ridgeland 6-5 with two unearned runs in the sixth inning to relegate the Lady Panthers to the fourth seed.
Heritage's third win over the defending state champion Lady Bruins (26-5) this season began with a bang. Lawson had the first of her three hits to drive in Olivia Tamewitz with the game's first run, and one batter later Shelby Hammontree made it 3-0 with a home run down the left-field line. After a walk and an error, Brooklynn Frazier had a sacrifice fly and freshman Sydney Smith singled in the fifth run.
Lawson was in complete control in the circle, allowing no more than one baserunner in any inning and even working around a pair of second-inning errors. She retired the final nine Northwest batters.
Ridgeland clinched its state berth by making a first-inning run against Cass hold up as pitcher Allison Wallin allowed only two hits. Shelby Epperson singled and stole a base in the first inning and later scored on an infield error.
"When we started practicing, I told them we had the talent to make the state," first-year coach Richie Wood said. "They just had to believe it. That was a good team. We hung tough after getting that one run, and it's like I told them, the little things matter, like Shelby stealing that base and being in position to score when the next person put it in play."
Ridgeland held a 5-4 lead over south subregion champion River Ridge in the sixth inning, but two errors and Katelyn Brack's two-out, two-run single gave the Lady Knights the win and a shot at Northwest on Thursday.
Contact Lindsey Young at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 423-757-6296.