RINGGOLD, Ga. - It's commonly believed pitching is the key to winning come high school softball playoff time. Rachel Hodge would concur ... to a degree.
While the pitching was solid for Hodge's Ringgold Lady Tigers, it was the bats that made the difference in Wednesday's Class AAA sweep of visiting Fannin County. Ringgold (28-5) pounded out 27 hits in the 10-2 and 7-4 wins and will host a second-round series next Wednesday.
The visiting Lady Rebels (16-16) got the Lady Tigers' attention with a quick run in the top of the first in game one, but once awakened, the Ringgold bats remained potent with two runs in the first and three more in the second before ending it with six runs in the sixth.
"I was very impressed with the bats," Hodge said. "They were great up there today, and I knew we had to out-hit them because they came in with a reputation as a good-hitting team. I heard those top four batters were tough, and they showed it tonight. We did a good job of hitting with runners in scoring position in the first game, and though we came out a little slow in the second game the girls picked it up when they needed to."
Freshman Dare Schley had three hits and drove in four runs in game one. Her two-run double in the second made it 5-1 and she had one of six hits in the sixth, which also included senior Devan Brown's two-run double. Abbey McKinney worked around four walks to earn the pitching win.
In game two the Lady Tigers built a 5-1 lead through three innings, with Allie Ellis and McKinney getting second-inning RBIs and the freshman Ellis, after Chandler Turner's solo homer to start the third, knocking in two more with a two-out single. However, Fannin cut the lead to one with three runs in the fifth against Ringgold freshman pitcher Katie Cain, with Josie Milsaps' two-run homer the big blow.
Cain escaped further trouble by getting a foul pop with runners on second and third to end the inning and, after getting a pair of insurance runs in the seventh, she retired the final six Fannin batters to seal the sweep.
"That was so important for her to come out and get those last six outs," Hodge said of Cain. "I had total faith in her and she responded. And Abbey pitched a phenomenal game in the first game. The young kids really stepped up tonight and our seniors (Brown and Turner) did what they've done all year."
One of the kids, Schley, led the way with five hits and said the team was glad to escape the first round.
"They got our attention early, and we kind of flipped the switch to on," the catcher said. "We came out to hit, and we knew coming in we had to. I was worried in the second game because they came back on us, but we stayed tough."
Taylor Chadwick had two hits and scored three times in game one, while Brown had a pair of hits in each game and drove in three. Ellis, who replaced Karoline Sholl after she was injured late in game one, had three hits and drove in two runs.
Contact Lindsey Young at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 423-757-6296.