Heading into the last inning, with Woodland trailing by three runs, it appeared the year would come to a disappointing end.
However, the Lady Wildcats rallied with two outs in the seventh inning, scored three runs to tie the game, and eventually defeated North Paulding in the eighth inning, 6-5, to qualify for the state tournament Tuesday at Allatoona High.
“I’ve been coaching 25 years and I’ve had a couple of teams that would fight like them, but not many,” Woodland head coach Colman Roberts said after the game. “I’m as proud of them as anybody I’ve ever coached. I told them a little while ago, they could have laid down and quit, but they didn’t.”
Roberts’ team will now move on to play the next round of the region tournament at 5:30 p.m. at Allatoona High.
Tuesday’s game saw Woodland get behind early as North Paulding scored one run in each of the first three innings.
The damage was mitigated by a Kereston Franklin’s 2-run double in the bottom of the first inning after Brooke Rogers walked and Bailey Roberts singled. Franklin took the ball the opposite way into the right-center field gap.
“She did a good job. I’m proud of her,” Roberts said of Franklin’s at bat. “She had a 10-pitch at bat and she had two strikes on her.”
North Paulding scored two more runs in the fifth inning putting Woodland at a 5-3 deficit. That was the score heading into the bottom of the seventh inning with just three outs remaining in the game.
In that seventh inning, the top of the order was due up and leadoff hitter Ashley Jordan delivered with her second leadoff double of the game. After two outs were made, Woodland was down to its last chance.
Bridgett Hampton was unfazed and hit a single down the right field line to drive in Jordan. Franklin then came up and hit a hard groundball to the North Paulding second baseman who let the ball get by her to put the tying run on base.
It was then that junior catcher Sydney Hodorff, with two strikes, hit a 2-run single down the right field line to tie the game.
“That was huge. She’s been working on hitting,” Roberts said of Hodorff. “[Hodorff’s] at bat, [Jordan] and [Roberts] at the top of the order, things just worked out for us.”
Woodland’s dugout was the loudest it had been all season during the seventh inning as the players tried to spark a rally.
“We were loud and crazy,” senior second baseman Brandee Godfrey said of her team that inning. “I was just enjoying the moment. This could have been my last game, my last moment wearing this jersey.
“I was just excited and pumped up. We were all crazy and it was awesome.”
The game then went to an eighth inning where pitcher Brooke Rogers worked a scoreless inning, despite a runner being placed at second base to begin the inning.
During Woodland’s half of the eighth, senior Darby Cagle was placed at second base, while Godfrey led off for the Lady Wildcats.
Godfrey laid a perfectly placed bunt down the first base line to move Cagle to third base with one out.
“I asked her what she wanted to do there and she said, ‘I can get it done,’” Roberts said of his conversation with Godfrey before the at bat. “And she did.”
“At first, he gave me the option. I was like, ‘I know I can get [the bunt] down,’” Godfrey said. “I was confident. I knew I was going to get it done.”
Cagle scored during the next at bat on a wild pitch.
“I tell them all the time, it’s their read. I don’t have time to tell them to go or stop, so it’s up to that kid,” Roberts said of Cagle’s decision to go home on the wild pitch. “She kind of hesitated and it was a bang-bang play. We were thinking about running for her, but it’s a good thing we didn’t.”
For the game, Bailey Roberts had two hits from the second spot in the order and Jordan had two doubles leading off. It was Jordan’s double that got the rally started in the seventh inning.
“She’s a senior and she wants to go out on top and she’s done well all year,” Roberts said of Jordan. “She was definitely ready to play today.”
The Woodland coach can exhale now, but still hopes to win more games in the region tournament.
“We brought it home and I’m proud of that. We’re going to come here tomorrow and battle. Hopefully we will give that same effort tomorrow,” Roberts said. “I’ve been stressed the past two days. We finished third or fourth here lately and it would be nice to finish one or two and host in state.”
Roberts has said he would have been disappointed had his team not made the state tournament.
As is, he is pleased with his squad’s 15-14 record thus far.
“We lost those seniors last year, and a lot of people thought we weren’t going to be real good. And this is the toughest schedule we’ve ever played since I’ve been here,” Roberts said. “It was a team effort today. I’m proud and excited.”
Cass season comes to an end despite Bailey’s efforts
Cass senior pitcher Courtney Bailey shut down Ridgeland’s offense Tuesday.
Unfortunately for the Lady Colonels, they could not generate enough offense to give Bailey run support and lost Tuesday’s region tournament game to Ridgeland by a score of 1-0 at Heritage Point Park to end the season.
“Their pitcher kept us off balance the entire game,” Cass coach Greg Hight said of Ridgland’s ace. “My hat’s off to her. She threw real well.”
Had Cass won the game, the team would have qualified for the state tournament. As is, the season comes to an end one game short.
“It was a big letdown for them,” Hight said of how his players felt after the game. “Sometimes you put more pressure on yourself than you need to. That could have been part of the problem.”
Ridgeland’s lone run of the game came in the first inning and was unearned.
Bailey shut out Ridgeland the rest of the way and had one hit in the game.
“[Bailey] threw real well,” Hight said. “She was solid down the stretch for us. We just had one miscue in the first inning that led to the run. I always say, ‘The team that wins is usually the team that makes the fewest mistakes.’”
Kiayana Farmer and Bre Mahrt had the other two hits for the Lady Colonels.
After a 6-18 start, Cass strung together seven wins in its final nine games.
“The way they finished the season,” Cass said of what he would remember about this year’s Cass squad. “We had our bumps earlier in the year, but I think the girls believed in themesleves. We played solid down the stretch and finished playing good ball.”