The Calhoun Yellow Lady Jackets continue to gain steam as the postseason moves forward, flexing its versatility and making the proper adjustments to capture a Class AAA State Tournament second-round series sweep against Franklin County on Wednesday at home.
The Lady Jacket (26-8) lineup proved formidable from the opening pitch in Game 1, cruising to a mercy rule-shortened 8-0 victory against the Lady Lions (21-15).
Lead-off hitter Carlie Henderson sparked the Calhoun offense by smacking an early single, which was followed by Erin Barnes drilling a double and Lyndi Rae Davis bringing them both home with a two-RBI single to open up the scoring. Adella Carver then reached on a single and was knocked in by Audrey Wilbanks’ RBI-single to cap off a successful 3-0 first frame.
It was an extremely productive contest for Carver, who collected a RBI on a sacrifice fly after a Davis double in the third and crushed a two-RBI double in the fourth to help grow the Lady Jackets’ lead. She finished 2- for-2 in Game 1.
Henderson and Barnes contributed solid efforts as table-setters for the Calhoun lineup, with Barnes going 2-for-3 with an additional RBI-double in the fourth and Henderson ending the contest with an RBI-single that pushed her stat line to 2-fpr-4 and the lead to 8-0 to invoke the mercy rule.
“I thought we had a lot of quality at-bats, and we were able to put enough solid hits together to jump on them early in the first game,” Calhoun head coach Diane Smith said. “I thought we did a good job of getting runners on and getting them in, and we never looked back after getting that early lead.”
Maggie McBrayer received the start for the Lady Jackets in the circle and kept the Lady Lions off balance in the box. She punched out six Franklin County batters, while allowing only three hits and walking only two hitters in five innings of work to earn the win.
“Maggie did a fantastic job for us,” Smith said. “She has really been great lately, and that was a phenomenal start she gave us tonight.”
Franklin County utilized the break to regroup and came out swinging in Game 2, but the more explosive lineup prevailed as the Lady Jackets powered through a bit of early adversity to claim an 11-5 win.
After Calhoun went three up, three down in the first, Franklin County’s Peyton Rivers tapped a single, Jana Grizzle reached by getting hit by a pitch and Jaden Cheek put the Lady Lions on the board 1-0 with a sacrifice fly.
Franklin County’s initial lead didn’t last long, however, as the Lady Jackets added a run off of a Wilbanks RBI-single in the next inning, followed by Carver swiping home on a throwing error and Walker roping an RBI-single to create a 3-1 margin in favor of Calhoun.
Franklin County didn’t go away, with Rivers connecting on a three-run home run to briefly recapture the lead. Calhoun quickly provided an answer off the bat of Carver, who grooved a towering two-run homer of her own to snag the lead back in the third.
The Lady Jackets wouldn’t relinquish the lead again. The team tacked on two runs on a bases-loaded walk in the fourth and a Blair Hall RBI-double in the sixth. Calhoun punctuated the victory in the seventh with a Henderson RBI-double, Barnes RBI-single and an additional two-RBI double by Hall.
Henderson finished 3-for-5 and Carver finished 2-for-5 in Game 2.
“I was a little worried in that second game because they took such an early lead,” Smith said. “But we kept fighting, and our lineup eventually starting hitting like they are capable of.”
Hall contributed a 2-for-2 Game 2 at the plate, and battled through Franklin County’s early offensive surge to strike out three batters over seven innings to pick up the win from the circle.
“Blair struggled a bit with their lineup in the early part of the second game, but she got better as the game wore on,” Smith said. “She really hung in there, and picked up a crucial win for us, so I was definitely proud of her effort.”
With the series win, the Lady Jackets advance to the Elite Eight in Columbus for the fifth straight season. They will face off with Rutland in their first game of the festivities next Thursday at 5 p.m.