RINGGOLD, Ga. - Maybe it's because she's too young to know better, or it could be that some athletes just have a flair for the dramatic, but whatever the reason, Ringgold High School freshman Dare Schley knew something big was about to happen.
Stepping to the plate in the seventh inning of a tied deciding game Thursday in the Lady Tigers' Class AAA state second-round series against Jackson County, Schley launched a three-run homer that propelled Ringgold to a 4-1 win. Her earlier double drove in the Lady Tigers' other run.
Ringgold (30-6) advances to the Elite Eight in Columbus, where it will open play along with five other northwest Georgia teams next Thursday.
"I knew when I got up there we had to get something done, and I went up there with more confidence than I've ever had in my life," Schley said. "I knew it was time to rock and roll. I had been struggling some, so it was time to get my act together and do what I can do."
To that point Ringgold had been held in check by Jackson County pitcher Payton Sorrells -- just as in Wednesday's second game -- something that had started to frustrate the Lady Tigers and their coach.
"Today we had a plan for our at-bats, and I looked up in the seventh inning and, even though our at-bats had been phenomenal all game, we were tied 1-1, so something had to give," coach Rachel Hodge said. "Thankfully, a freshman stepped up."
The winning rally came just after the Lady Tigers had escaped a huge jam in the bottom of the sixth. With one out and Jackson's Maddie Pecht on second base, Shelton Kendrix singled to left field and Pecht stopped temporarily at third. Kendrix kept running around first, believing the Lady Tigers would not risk the throw. Ringgold pitcher Abbey McKinney, however, cut the throw from the outfield and threw to second, where Mary Beth Lance applied the tag for out two. Reading the play, Pecht took off for home, but Lance whirled and threw home just in time for catcher Schley to complete a double play.
"Obviously, that was huge," Hodge said. "And it got us going. Sometimes it takes a play like that to turn momentum, and it did for us."
Devan Brown had two hits and scored twice for Ringgold, and McKinney helped her own cause with two hits.
Contact Lindsey Young at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 423-757-6296.