The Calhoun Lady Jackets have high goals for the rest of their season, including going to Columbus for the Elite Eight and winning a state championship. But they can’t accomplish those if they don’t take care of business in the first couple rounds of the Class AAA State Tournament, and that’s exactly what they did on Wednesday.
The Lady Jackets took care of business in impressive fashion, leaving no doubt they were the far superior team with a sweep of Cedar Grove to advance to the second round. Calhoun (24-8) jumped on the visiting Lady Saints early in both contests to take away any chance of a first-round upset, winning Game 1, 19-0 in three innings, and Game 2, 16-0 in three innings.
Calhoun coach Diane Smith said there was no room for doubt as her team entered the state tournament as they were driven to make a bold statement in the first round.
“I don’t really know what to say after two games like that,” said Smith. “But I was very proud of the way we came out against a struggling Cedar Grove team and didn’t play down to our competition at all. Our girls were on a mission today, and we played very well. We hit the ball hard in both games, and both of our pitchers were dominant in the short amount of time they were out there.
“I want our girls to have this same kind of attitude, effort and determination through this whole postseason. I think we can beat anyone when we play as good as we’re capable of, and this is just the first step for what we hope to be a long run in the state tournament.”
The Lady Jackets needed just two and a half innings to finish off Game 1 as they scored 11 runs in the bottom of the first and eight more in the bottom of the second. After that, the pitching and defense got three outs in the top of the third to end the game via mercy rule.
In Game 1, seven different Calhoun players recorded a hit with three having multi-hit games and others reaching base several times thanks to errors, walks or hit-by-pitches. Adella Carver had the big bat in the middle of the lineup, going 2-for-2 with a three-run homer and a two-run double to go along with a walk. Hannah Mashburn was 3-for-3 with a double, two RBIs and two runs scored. Carlie Henderson had two hits, an RBI and three runs scored from the leadoff spot, and Blair Hall, Anna Taylor and Audrey Wilbanks each added a hit and an RBI apiece. Lyndi Rae Davis had a hit and scored three times, and Erin Barnes also drove in a run.
Maggie McBrayer earned the shortened complete-game win as the freshman worked three innings in the circle and allowed just one hit while striking out four and walking two.
Game 2 started with Calhoun scoring three runs apiece in the first and second inning before putting the nail in the coffin for the game and the series with 10 runs in the top of the third. Once again the offensive production was spread throughout the lineup with eight players recording hits led by a 4-for-4 performance from Henderson in the leadoff spot. Davis was 2-for-2 with a double and three RBIs, and Hall had two hits, including a double and two RBIs. Molly Walker belted a three-run homer in her only at-bat, Taylor drove in two with a double, Maddie Bumgardner added an RBI-double and Mashburn had a hit and an RBI.
Hall pitched a three-inning perfect game in the circle for the win, striking out seven of the nine batters she faced.
“Both of our pitchers keep doing the job every time they go out there,” said Smith. “They both only pitched three innings tonight with the mercy rule, but both were dominant again. Blair was perfect and struck out six batters in a row to end the game, and Maggie didn’t give up much at all in Game 1. I feel really good going into the next round with those two pitching. I think we have the best 1-2 punch pitching of any teams left.”
Cedar Grove (9-18) recorded one hit in the two games and that came from leadoff hitter Micaiah Finley. Roben Heard and Jada Ware were able to draw walks in Game 1.
Calhoun now advances to the second round where they will host Franklin County next Wednesday for a doubleheader starting at 5 p.m. If a Game 3 is necessary, it will be played Thursday. The Lady Jackets are looking to advance to their fifth straight Elite Eight in Columbus with a series win.
“That’s one down, and we’ve got one more to go to get back to Columbus,” said Smith. “We can’t wait to get back on the field next Wednesday. I feel very confident with our team and how we’re playing right now. I think my girls are going to be hard to beat.”