Heritage Generals

The Heritage Generals' 2018 season ended memorably with the program's first-ever fastpitch state softball title in Columbus as the Navy-and-Red won the game in walk-off fashion.

But with the Generals having a chance to clinch their second consecutive state title on their own home field, they turned the dial up to 11 on the memorability scale.

Leading Marist 6-3 in the bottom of the seventh inning, but with the War Eagles having two runners in scoring position and no outs, Heritage served up what will likely go down as the most memorable play in the history of GHSA fastpitch softball.

With television cameras, cell phone cameras and a packed stadium watching, Heritage used a triple play to erase Marist's attempt at a rally and seal the Class 4A state title.

The game had started in Columbus on Saturday and had gone to the top of the seventh inning with Marist holding a 3-2 lead.

Madeline Stone drove in Zoey Wright with an RBI-single in the top of the first for the Generals, only to see Marist tie the game a half-inning later. A great throw from leftfield to the plate by Morgan Phillips would end the inning and keep the score tied.

The War Eagles would use two singles and an error to plate two runs in the bottom of the second inning to take the lead. Riley Kokinda would drive in Bailey Christol in the top of the third inning, but that would be all the runs Heritage could muster through the next four innings.

But things would change in a hurry in the top of the seventh.

Wright led off the inning with a walk, which was followed by a Kokinda doubled. Carmen Gayler hit a pop-up on the infield moments later, but Marist misplayed played the flyball, allowing Wright to speed home from third with the tying run. Tournament officials would then halt play in all games at the South Commons Complex because of the increasing rainfall shortly thereafter.

Some two-and-a-half hours later, the decision was made resume play on Monday at the school who had come through the Elite Eight winner's bracket unbeaten. That meant the Generals would have a chance to win the title in their own backyard.

An already excitable crowd at Heritage on Monday got even louder when Kokinda raced home on a passed ball to give Heritage the lead. Stone singled past the shortstop to bring in Gayler with Heritage's fifth run and, following a sacrifice bunt by Rachel Gibson, Lexi Duckett burned a drawn-in Marist outfield for a two-out, RBI-double to make it 6-3.

Generals' fans sensing victory were quieted somewhat when Heritage made two straight errors to start the bottom of the seventh. The two miscues put runners at second and third with no outs as pitcher Lexi Van Meter stepped to plate representing the tying run.

Van Meter would lift a ball into shallow right where it was gloved by Bailey Davis, who then made a nice throw to Stone covering the plate to prevent the runner at third from scoring.

However, the runner at second base got caught too far off the bag and Stone fired the ball across the diamond to Wright, who was covering the second on the play.

Wright would chase down the runner and apply the tag for the second out when the runner at third suddenly broke for the plate. Wright then fired a strike back to Stone at home, who applied the tag to complete the 9-2-6-2 triple play that gave Heritage the championship.

Kokinda finished 3-for-4 for Heritage, while Avery Fantucci was the only Marist player with multiple hits as she went 2-for-4.

Gibson got the victory after pitching seven innings of five-hit ball. She walked three batters and struck out five, while only one of the runs she allowed was earned. Van Meter took the loss after one inning of relief. She allowed one hit and one unearned run with two strikeouts. Ashley Haertel started the game for Marist on Saturday and pitched six innings, but got no decision.

Heritage closed out the year with a 29-6 overall record. They ended the year on a 16-game winning streak.

Scott Herpst is sports editor for the Walker County Messenger in LaFayette, Ga., and Catoosa County News in Ringgold, Ga.

Recommended for you