The Ridgeland Lady Panthers begin the 2016 season with three goals on their list.
They checked the first one off when they won the Region 6-4A title two weeks ago and the second one got checked off Tuesday night.
The Lady Panthers piled up 33 hits in just eight innings over two games and rode the pitching of seniors Morgan Crawford and Allison Wallin to an 11-1, 13-0 sweep of visiting Woodward Academy to secure the program's first trip to Columbus since 2003.
"It's amazing that we finally made it this far and finally broke that streak," Wallin said with happy tears streaming down her cheeks. "It's feel even more amazing to do it as a a senior. We've got two goals down and one more to go. We just have to keep working hard."
Ridgeland head coach Richie Wood said qualifying for the Elite Eight was a process that was "four years in the making".
"They wanted it bad today," he explained. "We've still got a few little hiccups we have to get rid of before we go down to (Columbus), but I'm happy for them. Now we just wait to see who we get first. So we'll get ready, get a few more practices in and get our hearts and minds right."
Ridgeland used seven-run innings in each game to totally overwhelm the War Eagles, who came into matchup as the No. 2 seed from Region 4.
The Lady Panthers pushed home two runs in the first inning of Game 1 before blowing the game wide open in the third. Ridgeland collected 10 hits in the frame, including seven consecutively, to open up a 9-0 lead.
Woodward would begin the top of the fourth with a single and double and they would finally put up a run as Crawford issued a walk to opposing starting pitcher Anna Freeman with the bases loaded. But the Carson-Newman commitment would strike out the next two hitters to get out of the jam.
Ridgeland would push across two more runs in the home half of the inning, then get the War Eagles in order in the top of the fifth to win the game via the run rule.
Crawford allowed three hits and three walks with nine strikeouts to pick up the Game 1 win. Wallin and Grayson James each had three hits in the 18-hit attack, while Crawford, Haley Sandridge, Kiera Foster and Cortney Mooneyham had two hits apiece. Sandridge, Foster, Wallin and Katie Davis each drove in a pair of runs.
Wallin would get the start in Game 2 and was staked to a 3-0 lead after the Lady Panthers - playing as the visiting team - scored three times in the top of the second. They would tack on three more in the third, two on Crawford's 11th home run of the year, before another seven-spot an inning later.
The Lady Panthers' three seniors, Mooneyham, Crawford and Wallin would all be replaced individually in the bottom of the fourth to warm cheers from the home crowd. Sophomore Hailey Carroll would get the final two outs, one via strikes, to close it out.
Wallin got the victory after giving up just one hit in 3.1 innings of work with two walks and four strikeouts. Davis had three of Ridgeland's 15 hits in the nightcap, while Sandridge, Foster and Mooneyham had two hits each. Sandridge plated four with a two-run single and a two-run double, while Davis, Mooneyham and Katie Carruth each added one RBI.
Freeman was saddled with losses in both games for Woodward (15-12).
Up next for Ridgeland will be their opening round game in the Class 4A Elite Eight, which is scheduled for Thursday, Oct. 27 at 8 p.m. at the South Commons Complex. The No. 7-ranked Lady Panthers will either face No. 2 Marist or No. 9 Columbus in the opener. Those two teams will begin their second-round series on Wednesday.
"We're still making some base running errors, making mistakes at the plate, not getting signs, and until we're doing every phase of the game perfect, we're not where I want us to be," Wood said. "But we've got the talent. We just have to play our game and not let the moment overwhelm us.
"If we play within ourselves, we can compete. We've got speed, power, pitching and defense. If we can just jack the softball IQ up a little, we'll be ready for anything."