Will there be a three-way three-peat in northwest Georgia fastpitch softball?
Heritage, Ringgold and Gordon Lee took the next step in each program defending its 2019 championship with quarterfinal doubleheader sweeps Tuesday. Heritage used 14 innings of dominant pitching from ace Rachel Gibson to get past Bainbridge by scores of 1-0 and 7-0.
Ringgold had the most dramatic day, earning 5-4 and 6-5 wins at Pierce County, scoring two runs in the seventh inning of game one and ending game two when Amber Gainer threw out the potential tying run at home.
Gordon Lee, seeking coach Dana Mull's 10th state championship, rolled past Wilcox County, 6-0 and 16-0, in Chickamauga to improve to 31-3.
Two of the best senior pitchers in the country faced off in Bainbridge, with Gibson coming out on top with a pair of shutouts over Bainbridge ace Lexie Delbrey, a University of Florida commit who is rated as the No. 4 pitcher in the nation.
Gibson, who was recruited by Florida before committing to Clemson, allowed three hits and struck out 13 in game one and followed that gem up with a complete-game, two-hitter with 11 strikeouts in game two. Heritage (29-6) coach Tanner Moore said Gibson convinced him to finish the series prior to game two.
"She came to me and said, 'Coach, I want it, I can do it.' When our senior who has done everything she has done in her career says that, you have to let her go. I'm not going to turn Rachel down in that situation. She threw 78 pitches, 60 of them strikes, in that second game.
"Rachel told me Florida took their pitcher over her, but if she took this series personally I never heard it. We made her pitch, but she's every bit as good as advertised. I told our girls before game one that she's going to get her 10 strikeouts, but we have to fight every single at bat."
Heritage's lone run came in the top of the first in game one when Carmen Gayler doubled with two out and Madeline Stone tripled. Heritage led 1-0 in the fourth inning of game two when Lexi Duckett, Zoe Wright and Gayler had run-scoring hits. Wright had three hits and three RBIs, with Gracie Dawson also getting three hits and scoring twice for the Generals.
Ringgold's Amber Gainer, before her defensive heroics in game two, started the winning rally in game one with a leadoff double in the seventh inning. Riley Nayadley followed with a single to tie Pierce County at four. Three batters later Taylor Layne singled in the winning run.
The Lady Tigers (23-15), who had to go on the road to win last year's title, roared out to a 6-2 lead in game two as Autumn Green drove in one run in the second inning and two more in the fifth, Nayadley had three hits and Baliegh Pitts drove in two runs.
However, Pierce rallied for two runs in the sixth, scored a run in the seventh and had runners on first and third with one out. Lauren Deloach flied out to center, where Gainer quickly threw home to catcher Caroline Hemphill, who applied the tag to end the game.
"The big thing I felt today was that we did a lot of little and unselfish acts that helped the team win," Ringgold coach Daniel Hackett said. "We bunted when we needed to and got a ground ball to the back side when we needed to. Our two pitchers may have had a struggle or two but they kept competing. Any time the other team would tie it up or score our girls fought back so hard to re-take the lead. They have flipped the switch when the playoffs started and played like the team that they know they are."
Class A public
Gordon Lee's double shutout was nothing new. It was the Lady Trojans (31-3) sixth consecutive blanking in the postseason and 12th in a row. Emma Minghini had to go the full seven innings in game one and allowed a hit and struck out 13 without a walk. Co-ace Emma Langston needed only three innings in game two and did not allow a hit and fanned four.
"We had great pitching and defense and that's what we really need in big games," Mull said. "We put the ball in play and made things happen. Overall I thought we played pretty well."
Minghini helped herself in game one with two hits, an RBI and run scored, with Allie Farrow adding two RBIs and Emma Phillips two hits, one a triple, and an RBI. Addison Sturdivant was 3-for-4 with two RBIs and a run scored in game two, with Minghini adding two hits, two RBIs and two runs scored and Langston, Ashlyn Schmidt, Sidney Gasaway, Madison Farrow and Jordan Dyer each adding an RBI.
Sonoraville advanced to the semifinals in the GHSA Class AAA postseason with a 3-2 win at Richmond Academy, 25-22, 21-25, 22-25, 25-14 and 15-9.
Sophomore Alley Cole had a game-best 28 kills, with Raleigh Hooper adding a career-high 37 assists to go with six digs, five kills and five aces. Abby Chambers had seven kills and nine digs, Kayleigh Ownbey six kills and six digs, Amber Sparkman five kills, Camden Steely 19 assists and Gracyn Thompson had 15 digs for the sixth-ranked Phoenix (40-13).
"It was a tough atmosphere to play in, and the Richmond girls gave us a heck of a fight," said Sonoraville caoch Trace Vaughn. "We could have easily given up, but there's no quit in this team. I'm so excited that they are beginning to believe in themselves and their hard work is paying off."
Sonoraville will travel to Westminster for a final four matchup Saturday.
Also Tuesday in Class AAA, LaFayette was eliminated by Morgan County 3-1.
Contact Lindsey Young at firstname.lastname@example.org; follow him on Twitter youngsports22.