There's no truth to the rumor that Heritage plans on petitioning the GHSA to have all of their remaining games this season at Dalton's Heritage Point Park, but the way the Generals were hitting the ball on Monday night, it's doubtful that any of the Heritage players would complain if they did.
Especially Madi Morris.
The senior found the settings at the park much to her liking as she belted three of her team's five home runs in a stunning 16-1 blowout of top-seeded Ridgeland. The win put Heritage into the region semifinals and secured a spot for them in the Class AAAA state playoffs, which begin on Oct. 11.
"It was just a really good win for the team in general," she said, flashing a 1,000-watt smile that helped get her selected to the school's Homecoming court last week. "We really played together. Everyone came through with key hits at key moments. It was just awesome. We're really pumped."
Morris hit a pair of two-run homers and added a three-run bomb as she finished with a game-high seven RBIs. Her first two-run dinger came with two outs in the top of the second to spark a seven-run, two-out rally. Reagan Armour would add a three-run shot three batters later and Ashley Faulkenberry closed out the frame with another two-run blast.
"Madi had an unbelievable night," Heritage head coach Tanner Moore said. "She broke the Heritage single-season home run record with that last one and it's just a testament to her and the adjustments she makes at the plate. She's put it all together this season and she, along with the other two seniors on this team (Faulkenberry and Taelyn Bates), have really been our leaders. They've done a phenomenal job.
Mallory Lowe and Kaylie Frogge also had three hits as part of a 17-hit explosion against the Lady Panthers. Armour and Rachel Gibson each had a pair of hits, while Armour also picked up four RBIs.
Gibson was stingy in the circle against the region's highest-scoring team. The freshman allowed just three hits - all singles - and finished with five strikeouts in arguably her biggest win of the season to date.
"I liked our matchup with Rachel the first time we played (Ridgeland), but that night, she didn't throw like she's capable of throwing," Moore explained. "But she's been throwing the ball awesome here toward the end of the season and that's just who Rachel is. I'm proud of her and proud of all of them."
The lone run for Ridgeland came in the bottom of the first with Ridgeland already down 3-0. Katie Davis drew a two-out walk, stole second and eventually came around to score on a Whitney Boehm single. Laine Hicks and Grayson James had the only other hits for the Lady Panthers.
Fourth-seeded Heritage also pounded out 10 hits in a 7-2 win over fifth-seeded Gilmer earlier in the day. Tied 2-2 headed into the bottom of the sixth, the Generals pushed home five runs to seize control for good.
Gibson, Frogge, Ansley Bice and Katie Proctor all had two hits. Gibson and Bice both had two RBIs, while Proctor's lone RBI came on a solo homer in the sixth. Bates threw five innings of five-hit ball with six strikeouts, but got no decision. Faulkenberry worked the last two innings to get the win. She gave up just one hit.
"Our girls are fighters," Moore said. "We told them before the game that everyone (in the tournament) is 0-0. Now it's post-season time. It's time to put everything, including the records aside and just focus on whatever is next, be it the next game, the next out, the next pitch, or the next moment and so far our girls have done that."
Up next for No. 9-ranked Heritage (18-8) will be second-seeded and No. 1-ranked Northwest Whitfield, who rallied for a 2-1 win over third-seeded LaFayette. The game will be played Tuesday at 7 p.m. with the winner advancing to the championship game of the double-elimination tournament.
No. 7-ranked Ridgeland (20-6) will face Pickens at 5 p.m. on Tuesday with the winner advancing to the state playoffs and the loser seeing their season come to a end.
Morris' 10th homer of the season broke the Heritage record, once held by former Chattanooga Moc Jesslyn Stockard. Stockard belted nine homers in the 2011 season for the Generals.