Lauren Palace scored off a wild pitch in the top of the seventh what proved to be the only run of the game as the Lady Greyhounds upset top-ranked Union Grove 1-0 to advance to today’s championship game of the Class AAAAA state finals at the South Commons Softball Complex.
Pope (29-5), which is making its first appearance at the elite eight, will face either Union Grove or Whitewater, in the 12:40 p.m. final. The Lady Greyhounds need to only win once more in the double-elimination tournament to take home their first fast-pitch state championship.
“I’m just so proud of the girls,” Pope coach Chris Turco said. “This is our first time down here, and they deserve to be in the position they’re in. We’ve gutted out some close wins in these last two games, and now we’re playing on Saturday. Hopefully, we can finish what we’ve started.”
In a pitchers’ duel between Pope’s Kelly Barnhill and Union Grove’s Megan Betsa, the first team to blink seemed destined be the loser.
That turned out to be the Betsa’s Lady Wolverines.
Ellyn Strother reached second on an error to lead off the sixth before Laura Miller’s sacrifice bunt moved her to third. After Palace came in to pinch-run for Strother, Betsa’s pitch sailed high off the glove of catcher Courtney Kenney and to the backstop, allowing Palace to score the go-ahead run.
Barnhill gave up one hit, walked three and struck out 14 to take the victory. Betsa allowed one unearned run off two hits and struck out 15 for Union Grove.
“In a pitching matchup like this, we fortunately were able to capitalize on their mistake,” Turco said. “We hope to play a clean game (today). If we can put more balls in play and play error-free, I like our chances in the final.”
Union Grove had an opportunity to take the lead in the second. Kenney led off with a single and reached second on a Madison Moore walk. Brittani Crawford’s sacrifice bunt pushed the runners ahead one base, but Barnhill caught a line drive and threw a strikeout to end the threat.
Barnhill and Jenna Reilly each had a hit for Pope.
Kennesaw Mountain advances through losers’ bracket: The Lady Mustangs stayed alive with three wins, capped by a 3-2 victory over East Coweta in the Class AAAAAA state finals.
Kennesaw Mountain (32-4-2), which lost to Mill Creek in the first round of the winners’ bracket Thursday, won all three of its games Friday to make it to today’s championship rounds for the first time in program history. The Lady Mustangs beat two county rivals — Harrison 3-0 in nine innings and Lassiter 1-0 — before earning the East Coweta victory.
Kennesaw Mountain will face Collins Hill in the losers’ bracket championship at 11 a.m.
“That was one of our goals coming down here —to make it to (today),” Kennesaw Mountain coach Lisa Chapman said. “Even if we lost in the first round, that was the goal because other teams have won the title this way, so why not us. Our girls believe in each other, and we’re not giving up.”
Kennesaw Mountain took a 1-0 lead over East Coweta in the first. Kimmie Strebe singled and reached third on Amanda Hallman’s single. An error in right field during the play allowed Strebe to score for the 1-0 advantage.
Bekah Farris, who allowed two runs — one earned — off five hits and struck out nine, hit a batter and gave up three of her five walks in the third. She walked in pinch-runner Madison Carter for the tying run, but got a forceout at home in the next at-bat to stem any more damage.
An error in the fourth inning allowed the Lady Indians to take a 2-1 lead, but the Lady Mustangs rallied for two runs in the fifth to forge ahead.
Becky Granneman reached on a fielder’s choice and scored on Malea Bell’s triple to right. East Coweta second baseman Kia Smith mishandled the relay, allowing Bell to cross home from third off the error, giving Kennesaw Mountain the 3-2 advantage.
Farris didn’t allow a runner past second base through the final three innings to preserve the victory.
“Bekah pitched great in all three games (Friday),” Chapman said. “She’s our MVP right now. We’ll need some more solid outings from here (today) to get to where we want to be.”
Molly Uhrman’s RBI single in the first was all Kennesaw Mountain needed in defeating Lassiter 1-0.
Hallman reached on a fielder’s choice and advanced to second on a throwing error by the shortstop. Uhrman then laced a single to right center to score Hallman and give the Lady Mustangs the 1-0 advantage.
Farris gave up five hits, walked two and struck out two in taking the win. She allowed a single, walk and a hit batsman in the third, but stranded the runners on base.
Lassiter’s Elise Sandberg led off the fourth with a single and ended the inning stuck on third.
Both Uhrman and Madi Lewis batted 2-for-3 for Kennesaw Mountain.
Kelly Sinclair was 2-for-4 for Lassiter, while Sandberg finished 2-for-2. Mackenzie Kayler gave up one unearned run on four hits for the Lady Trojans.
Kennesaw Mountain beat Harrison 8-1 during the regular season in its lone matchup against its familiar Region 4AAAAAA foe. Friday’s victory was drastically different, however, as the Lady Mustangs downed won 3-0 in nine innings.
A pitchers’ duel between Farris and Harrison’s Bridgette Rainey resulted in a scoreless tie through seven innings. Each pitcher had only allowed two hits through the first seven innings, and neither had a runner advance past second.
Using the international tiebreaker rule, Kennesaw Mountain failed to move Lewis from second after Rainey sat down the side in the eighth.
Rainey’s sacrifice bunt pushed Brianna Michaud to third in the bottom half of the eighth, but Farris induced a strikeout and a groundout to end the threat and extend the contest.
The Lady Mustangs eventually caught a break in the ninth.
Strebe went to third on a passed ball before Bell walked and then stole second to put runners on second and third with no outs. Hallman’s single plated Strebe with the winning run, and Chandler Stooksbury’s two-run single scored Bell and Hallman for the 3-0 edge.
Farris gave up two hits and struck out 13 in nine innings. She retired the side to end the game.
Sierra Maddox had both of Harrison’s hits. Rainey allowed three earned runs on four hits and struck out nine for the Lady Hoyas.
Archer 3, Lassiter 0: Lady Trojans pitcher Mackenzie Kayler had a perfect game going through five innings when disaster struck in the sixth.
Archer scored three runs in the decisive frame off an error and four hits to take the Class AAAAAA winners' bracket semifinal victory.
Kayler was cruising until Kristin Hawkins reached base on an error to lead off the sixth. The Lady Tigers followed with four consecutive base hits to drive in the three runs resulting in the victory.
Lassiter totaled four hits in the contest as Kelly Sinclair batted 2-for-3, Veronica Ulicny was 1-for-3 and Sammi Green batted 1-for-2.
East Coweta 2, Hillgrove 1: East Coweta scored two runs with two outs in the top of the third and held on for the Class AAAAAA losers’ bracket victory.
Kia Smith was hit by a pitch to lead off the inning. She then stole second and reached third on a passed ball. Mekhia Freeman advanced to first on an error that plated Smith, and Shemiah Sanchez doubled home Freeman for the Lady Indians’ second run.
Hillgrove trimmed the deficit to one with a run in the bottom half of the inning. Ambria Derry singled and moved to third when Brittany Ferrell reached second on a two-base error.
Rachel Jarvis’ RBI groundout plated Derry, but the Lady Hawks, who had one hit in the contest, failed to complete the rally.
Hillgrove pitcher Abby Evans only gave up two hits in the contest.
South Paulding 5, Allatoona 2: The Lady Spartans rallied from a 2-0 deficit with five runs in the bottom of the third to take the Class AAAAA losers’ bracket game against its Region 5AAAAA foe.
Allatoona took a 2-0 lead in the top of the second.
Morgan Nesbit walked, stole second and scored on Bailey Crawford’s single. Erika Dunbar reached on a base hit, moving Crawford to second, and a groundout advanced both runners one base with two outs.
Morgan Kazerooni added to the Lady Buccaneers’ total with single that plated Crawford for the 2-0 margin.
Nine South Paulding batters came to the plate in the bottom of the third as the Lady Spartans scored their runs off three walks and three hits and held on for the victory.
Crawford was 2-for-3 with a walk and scored a run. Dunbar and Jessica Finch each batted 1-for-4, while Kazerooni was 3-for-4.