It took more than 10 years of frustration for the Heritage Generals to finally win a state fastpitch softball championship.
However, the wait to win title No. 2 could be significantly shorter.
After a thrilling comeback that saw them score four times in the bottom of the seventh inning in a 4-1 win over Madison County earlier on Friday, the Generals rallied from a 2-1 deficit with four runs in the top of the sixth to beat Oconee County, 5-2, in Friday night's Class 4A winners' bracket final in Columbus.
With the win, Heritage is just one victory away from the 2019 state championship. The title game is set for 2 p.m. on Saturday. Heritage's opponent has yet to be determined. Northside-Columbus will face off with Marist at 10 a.m. for the right to challenge Oconee County in the losers bracket final at 12 noon. The winner of that game will then have to beat the Generals twice to win it all.
Heritage (28-6) broke through in the top of the fourth inning on a Carmen Gayler sacrifice fly to score Zoe Wright. But the Lady Warriors would answer in the bottom of the inning as a pair of two-out singles and an error loaded the bases for Mattie Mentel, who would come through with a two-run double to give Oconee a 2-1 lead.
But in the top of the sixth, Wright reached base on a one-out error and promptly stole second before racing home on an RBI-single by Gayler to tie the game. Madeline Stone would single to put runners at first and second and Oconee would misplay a hard hit ball by Bailey Davis, allowing pinch-runner Katy Thompson to score on the error and regain the lead for the Generals.
Then, with Davis at second base and Stone standing at third, Rachel Gibson helped herself with a clutch two-run single to extend Heritage's lead to three runs.
Gibson would then go on to strike out four of the last seven hitters she faced over the final two innings to close it out. She gave up just three hits and three walks in seven innings. Neither of the two runs she allowed were earned and she finished with 16 strikeouts.
Wright was the only Heritage player with multiple hits as she went 2-for-4.