In crucial situations, teams lean on their big-time players to make big-time plays.
The Calhoun Lady Jackets faced a crucial situation on Wednesday as they hosted Lovett in the second round of the Class AA State Tournament with a berth in the Elite Eight in Columbus on the line.
And the Lady Jackets’ big-time player came through. Taylor Kelly went 6-for-8 with three homers, a double and seven RBIs to lead her team to a sweep of the Lady Lions and their first trip to Columbus since 2008.
“It was just one of those nights where it felt like no matter what they threw me, I was going to hit it,” said Kelly of her performance. “I was struggling a little late in the season, but I’ve worked hard and my bat really came alive tonight. Hopefully, I can keep it going in Columbus. Hopefully, we can all keep it going.”
Kelly was the ringleader in a huge offensive day for Calhoun (29-6) as they combined to score 21 runs in their two wins over Lovett. In the first game, the Lady Jackets won 11-8 as Lovett rallied to get back in the game with four runs in the seventh, but couldn’t come all the way back.
The second game wasn’t as close as Calhoun steadily added onto their lead in a 10-0 victory in six innings.
Calhoun coach Diane Smith said getting to Columbus was a goal for this team since the preseason.
“I knew these girls were capable of doing it,” said Smith. “Now, it’s just another goal reached, and our next goal is to go to Columbus and win the whole thing. I think this team is very capable of winning a State Championship.”
In Game 1 on Wednesday, Kelly had a homer, a double and three RBIs to lead the way in a game that was close until Calhoun added four runs in the sixth to push the lead to 11-4 before Lovett’s late attempt at a comeback. Allie Jones had a double and two RBIs, Emily Weatherman had a two-RBI single along with three walks and Wimberly Roe knocked in a run with a hit.
Kinsey Liscio got the win for Calhoun, pitching all seven innings and allowing eight runs on eight hits, while striking out 11. Much of the damage came in the final frame.
Kelly then set the tone in Game two, accounting for Calhoun’s first four runs on two-run home runs in the first and third innings. The Lady Jackets once again pulled away in the sixth inning with four runs to push their lead to 10.
Jana Johns had a big performance in Game 2 with three hits, including a homer, and three RBIs. Raleigh Fitch added three RBIs on a double and a home run, which was the first of her high school career, and Weatherman added two more hits.
Alyssa Shawgo, one of the team’s two seniors along with Roe, was dominant in the circle, going all six innings and allowing just three hits while striking out seven for the shutout.
Shawgo said to be able to pitch like that in the game that sent her team to the Elite Eight her senior season was a great experience.
“I’ve felt a lot of pressure the last three years, and to be able to finish it out this season with a trip to Columbus is so exciting,” said Shawgo. “I’m so thankful for this team, and I’m really happy to be a part of it.
“We have a lot of confidence right now. I think we have the team to do it this year.”
Kelly echoed those thoughts about the team’s confidence heading into the Elite Eight.
“Everyone is at a high right now,” said Kelly. “Everyone is playing well and working hard, and I’m so proud of this team. We feel like we can win it all.”
Calhoun finished as state runner-up the last time they played in Columbus back in 2008 as they lost to Buford in the state title game. Smith said her team was looking forward to getting there again, and they know what they have the opportunity to do.
“The players were fired up and ready tonight,” said Smith. “It’s not always the same girl that we have to count on. Different people have stepped up in different spots this season.
“I have a lot of confidence in these girls. I feel really good about it because I think we can compete with any team in the state.”
Calhoun will open play in Columbus next Thursday at 2:30 p.m. against the winner of the Berrien County-Bryan County series, which will play a decisive Game 3 today after splitting the first two.