Ringgold Tigers

The Ringgold Lady Tigers are not the first team to ever fight back out of the elimination bracket to win a state championship.

But none of the other teams that have ever done it did it quite like the Blue-and-White did it in 2019.

After an opening-round lost to Southeast Bulloch in Columbus forced the Lady Tigers to win six straight games the claim the title, Ringgold did so in championship style.

Dramatic come-from-behind victories against East Hall and Calhoun on Saturday ended in final-inning walk-off victories to give the Lady Tigers a spot at the final table and from there, Ringgold went all in.

They would use another comeback win over Franklin County to force a winner-take-all game for the Class 3A state championship and the never-say-die Lady Tigers once again offered up a dramatic finish.

Ringgold 7, Franklin County 5

Needing to beat the Lady Lions twice to win it all, Ringgold stormed back from a three-run deficit to pick up the victory in a game that began in Columbus on Saturday and finished up at Franklin County some 48 hours later.

A two-out, two-run double by Riley Nayadley in the top of the third inning briefly gave Ringgold a 2-1 lead. But Franklin County would tie the game in the bottom of the third inning before taking a 5-2 lead an inning later.

The comeback would begin as Amber Gainer reached base on a one-out error in the top of the fifth. She would race home on an RBI-double by Baileigh Pitts and back-to-back walks would set the table for the rest of the big inning.

Jade Gainer drove in Autumn Green and Nayadley with an two-RBI single and Ava Raby plated Shelby Cole and Gainer with a double to put Ringgold in front.

After play was suspended because of the heavy rain, the game resumed at Franklin County on Monday. Pitcher Taylor Thomas, who entered the game in the third inning back in Columbus on Saturday, would make the two-run lead hold up.

She got back-to-back strikeouts to end the fifth inning and stranded two runners in scoring position. She would later induce a flyball to centerfield for the final out of the game to maroon another runner at second base.

Four of Ringgold's six hits were doubles as Amber Gainer joined Pitts, Nayadley and Raby with a two-base hit.

Thomas pitched five innings of relief to get the victory. She gave up four earned runs on eight hits and one walk with two strikeouts. Kaylee Phillips started the game in the circle and pitched two innings. She gave up one earned run on two hits and one walk.

Ringgold 2, Franklin County 1

Monday's nightcap saw Nayadley draw first blood for the Lady Tigers with a towering solo homerun in the top of the fourth inning. However, a single and a rare Ringgold error put runners at the corners in the bottom of the fifth inning and Sarah York made the Lady Tigers pay for the mistake with an RBI-single that tied the game.

Ringgold would leave a runner at third base in the sixth and the Lady Lions would put the potential championship-winning run at third base in the bottom of the seventh. However, a nice catch by rightfielder Taylor Layne would end the inning and send the game to extras.

The Lady Tigers' first two batters of the inning would be retired on groundouts, but not the third as Amber Gainer ripped a 1-1 pitch off of pitcher Jayden Gailey over the fence in center to put Ringgold back on top, 2-1.

Franklin County would fly out to Layne twice to start the bottom of the eighth. Phillips would issue a walk to bring the potential winning run to the plate with two outs, but she would induce an infield pop-up to Caroline Hemphill at second base to seal Ringgold's first fastpitch state title since 2005.

Layne had a double in the victory and Addi Broome also picked up a single. Phillips scattered five hits over eight innings. She did not allow an earned run and gave up just one walk while striking out one batter in the victory.

Ringgold concluded its season with a 31-4 overall record.

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

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