FORT OGLETHORPE -- The Calhoun offense was late to the party in both games of their Region 6-AAA Championship doubleheader on Wednesday, but once they got there, they crashed it.
The Lady Jackets combined to score 14 runs over the final three innings of the two games at LFO, and the result was a sweep and a sixth straight region title. Calhoun (22-8) rallied for three runs in the top of the seventh in Game 1 thanks to back-to-back homers from Lyndi Rae Davis and Blair Hall to earn a 6-5 comeback win, and they exploded for 10 runs in the fifth and sixth innings of Game 2 capped off by a three-run homer from Davis to force the mercy rule for an 11-2 victory to complete the region finals sweep.
“Our bats were awesome in crunch time today,” said Calhoun coach Diane Smith. “The last few innings of each game they really picked it up and came up with some huge hits. I wish they would get it going a little earlier to make it easier on this old coach, but I’m so proud of these girls for what they did tonight.
“The girls were pumped up to play in the region championship series, but I thought we were a little flat in the first half of Game 1. We made a few mental errors and some plays that cost us, but we got some clutch hits in the seventh with Lyndi Rae’s homer and Blair’s homer. We came through when we needed to. And then in Game 2, we were right there the whole game, and the offense finally started putting some hits together and we were able to put together a couple big innings. Six region titles in a row is incredible, and I’m so proud of these girls. We’ve really played our best softball and come together these last couple weeks, and I’m excited about what this group can do in the state tournament.”
Davis, a freshman and UGA commit, had a monster series, going 4-for-7 with two homers, seven RBIs and three runs scored.
“She’s a hoss,” said Smith of her freshman. “I see why Georgia wanted her so much. She came through big tonight and certainly didn’t play like a normal freshman.”
Davis said she went to the plate in the seventh in the first game looking to make something happen with her bat and did just that. She said she was extremely happy to be able to deliver for her team on such a big stage.
“I was just trying to work to get a base hit (in the seventh in Game 1),” said Davis. “I knew she had been pitching me outside all night so I was looking for that, wanted to be aggressive and was able to time it up. It feels amazing to get those big hits. I’ve been working hard for moments like this, and it is a huge honor as a player to be able to come through like I was able to tonight.”
Game 1 started on a high note for Calhoun as they scored two runs in the top of the first to take a quick lead. But LFO (20-12) answered right back with two in the bottom of the second and one in the bottom of the third to take the lead.
After the Lady Jackets took the lead once again in the fifth as Erin Barnes came home to score on a wild pitch, LFO grabbed the momentum with a two-run double by Haley Stahl in the bottom half of the frame to go back ahead 5-3. That set up the seventh-inning heroics by Calhoun as Barnes reached on an error with one out in the inning, and Davis stepped to the plate to deliver the game-tying, two-run homer over the left-center field fence. Hall backed that up by turning on a pitch and crushing it over the left-field wall for the eventual game-winning homer.
Maggie McBrayer finished things off in the bottom of the seventh with a scoreless inning to give her a complete-game win. McBrayer, another freshman standout, went seven innings and gave up five runs (four earned) on eight hits while striking out three.
Hall continued the strong pitching day for Calhoun with a six-inning, complete-game effort of her own to earn the win in Game 2. She allowed two runs in the first inning to LFO but nothing else, including getting out of a second and third, one-out jam in the fifth with no damage by striking out two straight batters. She finished by going six innings and allowing two runs on five hits while striking out eight.
Smith said her pair of strong pitchers continued their hot streak of late and were key once again in the Lady Jackets’ success.
“They both have really come around lately and are pitching their best softball right now,” said Smith. “We have two really good starting pitchers, and I think that gives us an advantage over a lot of teams. Maggie stood in there in Game 1 and got some big outs, and Blair was really on tonight in Game 2. I’m proud of both of them and very happy to have them as a coach.”
Hall finished with three hits in Game 1 at the plate, including her homer, to go along with two RBIs and two runs scored. Barnes also reached base three times and scored three runs.
Calhoun got contributions from several different spots in the lineup in Game 2 as Davis was 2-for-4 with a homer and five RBIs, Adella Carver was 2-for-3 with a big three-run shot in the fifth, Barnes added two hits, including a triple, to go with an RBI and two runs scored, Hannah Mashburn contributed two hits and an RBI and Molly Walker was 2-for-3 with a double.
For LFO in Game 1, Shamiyah Jones and Taylor Phillips had two hits apiece, Keelie Mauk added a hit and an RBI, Stahl contributed her two-run double and Kourtney Morrison had a double. Morrison also went the full doubleheader on the mound for the Lady Warriors in a gutsy performance in the circle despite the two losses. She added two hits and an RBI in Game 2 at the plate.
The Lady Jackets will now await their first-round opponent for the Class AAA State Tournament. They will host the No. 4 seed from Region 5-AAA for a doubleheader on Wednesday and play a Game 3 on Thursday if necessary. Smith said she is looking forward to seeing what this team can accomplish in the next few weeks.
“I feel great about the state tournament, and I’m really excited about this group of girls and what they can do,” said Smith. “I think these girls are ready to take anyone on.”
“We’re very confident in our team right now,” added Davis. “We’ve come together the last few weeks and have played well. I think we can beat anybody in the state and can win that state title.”