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Lady Rams mop up Cross Creek

Photo by Daniel Kay

Photo by Daniel Kay

SYLVESTER -- Just for the record, Worth County did not lose in the first round of the Class AAA softball playoffs the last two years.

Got it?

Worth might have fallen in the first round a year ago, but two years ago the Lady Rams went to the Elite Eight. There's really no reason to bring it up now, except that fact became a point of contention this week it when the kids from Worth were getting ready to open the state tournament against Cross Creek.

"There was a newspaper story in Augusta that said we had lost in the first round the last two years,'' said Worth's Haley Ellis, who was furious about the slight.

"It was an insult,'' she said. "We were looking around (on the internet) and found that story, and we got aggravated about it. We felt like Cross Creek was coming into the game overlooking us. I didn't like that at all. So we decided to beat up on them.''

And boy, did they.

Worth belted Cross Creek, 8-0, and 9-1, in front of a large crowd Wednesday afternoon at Worth to sweep the best-two-out-of-three series in two five-inning games that both ended quickly because of the eight-run rule. It could have been worse.

Ellis took out her frustration early, going 4-for-4 in the opening game with three doubles. She would have had four doubles, but her final drive drove in the eighth run of the game to end it, leaving her with a single. She blasted a two-run homer, her 12th of the year, in the second game. She went 5 for 7 and drove in five runs for the day and left the park hitting .630 for the season with 65 RBI.

Her twin sister Heather had another sparkling day at shortstop and went 3-for-6 and drove in three runs in the opener.

"Last year we felt so bad when we lost the first round,'' Heather said. "It was a shock. It feels good this year to turn it around.''

Now it's time for Worth to turn it on for a stretch run. The Lady Rams meet the winner of the Mary Persons/Eastside game next Wednesday back at Worth's softball field, where another victory sends them to the Elite Eight.

"We weren't going to lose in the first round again,'' said Haley, a junior who was a freshman when Worth advanced to the Elite Eight two years ago. "It feels really good to win the first round, and I feel really confident going into the next round. There's no reason we shouldn't end up in the Elite Eight this year.''

You couldn't find one Wednesday afternoon.

"That's probably the best we've played all year,'' said Worth coach Russell Beard, whose team is now 27-2. "I was a little worried because of what we did last year, but our girls did what we asked them to do. They went out and won and they were businesslike today. They didn't get upset when they got behind in the second game. They knew they were prepared to play our game and we did, the whole team, 1 through 9 in the batting order.''

The ninth hitter in the lineup, Faith Jones, reached base three times in the nightcap, and the bottom of the order ignited rallies in the two-run fourth and five-run fifth that was highlighted by Lauren Potts' line drive RBI double.

Worth did fall behind 1-0 in the first inning of the second game, but Kelly Weaver shut the door on Cross Creek. Well, she slammed it.

After giving up two hits and a run in the first inning, Weaver was perfect, retiring the next 14 batters in a row to get the win. She's 9-1 now, but none felt better than this one.

"I knew if I kept throwing strikes my defense would pick me up, and I knew the offense would score some runs,'' Weaver said. "After the first inning there was no more stress for me. I was ready to go, and I was on fire after that.''

Weaver, who also had two hits and scored twice in the nightcap, and the Worth fielders made it look easy -- 14 up, 14 down. Only two balls left the infield and left fielder Kaitlyn Parton made a nice play on the first one and centerfielder Brittney Cornwell made a running catch to snatch a liner for the second out of the fifth inning. Worth didn't make an error in either game.

Morgan Bell gave up just three hits while tossing a shutout in the opening game, then nailed down third base in the nightcap and hit two doubles and drove in a run. It was that kind of day for Worth.

There was only a couple of tense moments for Worth and they both belonged to Kimmy Lee, who had two hard collisions at second base in the first game.

"They've got a new nickname for me. They're calling me 'Crash,''' Lee said afterward. "I had two crashes at second base and I flipped my car last May. I'm hurting more now than I did when I flipped my car.''

Lee played in pain, but you would never know it. She went 2-for-3 in the opening game and belted a homer, then she went 3 for 4 and drove in two more runs in the second game. Her 5 for 7 day lifted her batting average to .540.

"I can breathe,'' she said afterward. "But it hurts when I breathe. I feel like I got run over by a steam truck. I'm going home to take a bath and go to bed.''

Still, she left the park happy.

"It feels a lot better than it did last year when we lost in the first round,'' she said. "It feels so good. It's really indescribable. I know the talent we have on this team can take us further than we have ever been.''