Worth’s Heather Ellis tries to reel in an errant throw during Thursday’s state opener vs. Mary Persons. (firstname.lastname@example.org)
SYLVESTER -- As Worth County head softball coach Suzanne Kluball puts it, the Lady Rams were "working themselves to death" Thursday in the opener of the GHSA Class AAA playoffs.
Apparently Mother Nature knew they needed a break.
Randolph So. softball reaches first-ever Final 4
SHELLMAN -- The Randolph Southern softball team is headed to the GISA Class A Final Four for the first time ever following Thursday's Elite 8 sweep of Nathaniel Greene.
"Not bad for a school with 30 total girls, huh?" Lady Patriots second-year head coach Rand Ragan said.
One of those, however, is Ragan's daughter, Madison, who did it all Thursday. On the mound, she gave up a total of three hits between both games, while also notching three hits -- one of them being her sixth homer of the year, while another was a double -- and two RBI.
Randolph, the Region 3-A champs, won Game 1, 10-2, in six innings with contributions at the plate from Braylie Blanton (two hits, double, RBI), Brittany Holbrook (two hits, three RBI), Gaby Jackson (two hits, three RBI) and Madison Langford (triple).
Randolph then won Game 2, 8-5, thanks to Elizabeth Lumpkin (2-for-3, double, two RBI), Langford (two hits, two RBI) and Blanton (double).
"We talked about making history (before the season started), and here we are," the coach said. "It's exciting."
Randolph doesn't have much down time, however. The Lady Pats open the Final Four on Saturday in Dublin against the defending state champ Briarwood.
Worth County nearly tripled Mary Persons in hits in Game 1 of the best-of-three series, but the Lady Rams fell, 7-6, in the opener due in large part to 11 walks, multiple wild pitches and errors.
Game 2 Thursday was rained out and will start today at 3:30 p.m., with Game 3, if necessary, to follow at 5:30 p.m. Mary Persons, the No. 3 seed from Region 2-AAA, needs just one win to advance, while Region 1-AAA No. 2 seed Worth County will need to sweep the doubleheader. The winner will travel to Augusta next week to face Region 3-AAA top seed Cross Creek, which swept Jackson in two games earlier this week.
"Gotta win," Kluball said. "We just messed up in crucial times. We put way too many runners on, whether it be walks, hit batters or errors."
Mary Persons' Taylor Penn did the offensive damage for the Lady Dogs (21-12) with a triple and three RBI to help turn a 2-2 game in the third inning into a 6-2 lead. Penn had half of the Lady Dogs' four hits in the game, but Worth County starting pitcher Lauren Potts' 11 walks and three wild pitches did the Lady Rams no favors.
Worth (21-12) had 11 hits at the plate, led by Kimberly Lee's 3-for-4 day with one RBI and two stolen bases.
"We hit the ball one through nine (in the lineup), which was an improvement," Kluball said. "We just didn't do the little things."
Potts struck out nine hitters, while allowing five earned runs, but she threw a staggering 162 pitches in the process. Mary Persons' Adair Woodward picked up the complete-game win. She walked none and threw less than 100 pitches.
"She's our senior and we'll go with her as long as we can," Mary Persons' coach Ronnie Shipman said. "We felt like we were prepared and knew about (Worth)."
Both Woodward and Potts will start again today.
"We've only got one pitcher, so it almost works out better for us," Kluball said of having another day to rest Potts for Game 2 and a possible Game 3 this evening.
The Lady Rams rallied in the fifth with three runs, to cut the Lady Bulldogs' lead to 6-5, but a Worth County error, its fourth of the game, in the seventh scored Briana Walls on a bunt to push the lead to 7-5. Potts drove in Lee in the bottom half of the seventh for Worth to bring the Lady Rams within one run again, but Woodward closed the door in the seventh.
Heather Ellis went 2-for-4 for Worth, while Faith Jones added an RBI single. Marissa Moreland contributed two hits in the loss.
Reigning Herald Player of the Year Haley Ellis finished the day 0-for-4, striking out once.