Woodland reminded of past as it prepares for state

Woodland catcher Skylar Chappell tags out a Northwest Whitfield baserunner at home during a game on Sept. 18 at Woodland. The Lady Wildcats will take on Loganville today in the first round of the state tournament.

In 2012, Woodland softball traveled to Loganville to play a best of three in the state tournament.

The two teams split the first two games, and Loganville won the third to advance.

Head coach Colman Roberts remembers those games — he and his daughter Bailey, who was a sophomore on the team at the time — were reminiscing last week about the long drive on back-to-back days, and the disappointment that came with it.

Six years later, Loganville now travels to Woodland, in what will be the first time the Lady Wildcats host a state playoff game of any kind.

“Us coming down the hill and playing at home, I think we’re going to have a real big crowd,” Roberts said. “So it should be exciting.”

Prior to a loss against Carrollton in its region title game, Woodland had won seven of eight.

It was getting contributions from all down the lineup, and Sarah Baynard, who has a 2.51 ERA on the year in 139.1 innings pitched, has been shutting opponents down left and right.

So though Loganville is ranked No. 8 in Class 5A, there is reason for optimism as Woodland enters a best-of-three against the Lady Red Devils.

Loganville is 21-8 on the year as it made its way through Region 8-AAAAA, finishing third in its region behind Walnut Grove and Buford.

Woodland will be led on offense by Caroline Higdon, who’s hitting .337 with 34 RBIs with a team-leading seven doubles — Skylar Chappell is right behind at six — and three triples.

Morgan Bailey, leads the team in average and runs scored at .344 and 29 respectively.

Higdon and Bailey are tied for the team lead in hits at 32.

In last year’s state tournament, Woodland, seeded third, made it to the round of 16, defeating Miller Grove in the first round.

Roberts believes that Loganville “will be a tougher opponent” than Miller Grove was in 2016.

Roberts made a point to talk to his team, a lot of whom went through that tournament run last year. He reminded them that this year is different and while experience is useful for framing what can be done this year, they need to stay focused and not let the past dictate the future.

“We want to move past it this year,” Roberts said.

Roberts was encouraged with how practice has gone after giving the team the weekend off.

He’s expecting to start Sarah Baynard in the first game and Madi Bentley in the second.

In an ideal world, the Wildcats will sweep and not have to worry about the third game they had to play against Loganville in 2012.

Should it happen, the two teams will turn around and play Thursday.

“They are very aggressive and well-coached,” Roberts said. “It’ll be a tough task.”

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