When Cass' 2019 season ended in the Region 7-AAAAA tournament, Colonels head coach Taylor Washington declared that her team would reach the state playoffs the following year. Washington's prediction …
When Cass' 2019 season ended in the Region 7-AAAAA tournament, Colonels head coach Taylor Washington declared that her team would reach the state playoffs the following year.
Washington's prediction came true Tuesday, when Cass edged Cartersville by a 2-1 final score in a region road game. The victory not only clinches the Colonels a postseason spot but also assures the team of a top-three seed in the Class 5A state playoffs.
"That's huge," Washington said of the accomplishment. "That was our goal going into last season. We fell a little short last year. This year, it's been our goal.
"I credit it all to the girls. Their attitude and the leaders I've seen emerge this year have been big for us. I feel like that's what made the difference."
It took a pair of victories over Cartersville to seal the deal. After losing the opening game of a doubleheader against the Canes by a 6-4 margin on Aug. 26, the Colonels rallied for a 12-9 win in the nightcap to set up Tuesday's rubber match.
While Game 3 wasn't as high scoring as its predecessors, it certainly lived up to the hype from an entertainment perspective.
Cass (13-6, 8-4) managed to scratch across a run in the top of the first. Eryn Lee drew a walk and reached third on a costly error. The junior managed to score on a groundout, sliding deftly to the backside of home plate to avoid the tag.
The Colonels added to their lead in the fourth inning. Ansley Hight singled, moved to second on a sacrifice bunt by Haley Smith and scored on a double by Haylee Dishmon.
Cartersville (6-17, 4-8) managed to tie the score in the home half of the frame. Kiley Arnold's single up the middle scored Anna Kate McElhaney from third base, but Hight threw out Ava Perkins, trying to score from second.
"Our offense had been playing well, but our defense had been sloppy a few games in a row," Washington said. "I wanted our defense to be almost perfect, if not perfect, and I felt like we did that. We didn't swing as well, but the defense worked out for us today."
It wasn't the first out the Canes made on the basepaths, as Madison Lingerfelt was tagged out at third just moments after leading off the third inning with a double.
It also wasn't the last out the Canes made on the basepaths. That came in the sixth frame.
With the bases loaded and nobody out, Lee fielded a grounder at second and threw home to get the force out. Poor baserunning allowed Cass catcher Macenzie Dougharty to throw out a Cartersville runner at second base before shortstop Alexis Woods fired home to catch McElhaney in an attempt to score from second base amid the confusion.
Needless to say, the triple play really took the wind out of the Canes' sails, and Colonels pitcher Rachael Lee was able to close out the hosts in the seventh without incident.
"Cartersville-Cass games are always going to have a lot of energy," Washington said. "Everybody is going to come to play their best. We know that every time we play them.
"I thought Rachael Lee did a great job in the circle holding them to one run. I thought the play we made where we got three outs with the bases loaded was a big play. That was a big momentum swing our way."
Despite the loss, Cartersville head coach Shannon Suarez was proud of her team — particularly pitcher McKinley Chada, who held the high-powered Cass offense to one earned on five hits and one walk against three strikeouts.
"It was a well-played game for both teams," Suarez said. "We had a missed opportunity there in the third with a leadoff double. I think that came back to hurt us. On top of a baserunning mistake, we needed a little bit more timely hitting, a little bit more aggressiveness.
"Damn proud of McKinley. She pitched a great ballgame and put us in position to win. Defense was lights out. ... Proud of our girls."
The Canes still have a chance to earn the No. 4 seed in the region, but it will likely require sweeping Blessed Trinity in a home doubleheader Thursday. The Titans are also 4-8 in the region. However, they beat the Canes in their first matchup this season.
"We still have life," Suarez said. "We just have to take it one day at a time. Try to take advantage of our opportunities in the game, and hope that it pays off and we get a win. That's what it's going to have to take. ...
"Blessed Trinity coming up is going to be two huge games for us. It will kind of determine our fate if we do get into the state playoff. We'll do our best to get ready for them and focused after this to give ourselves the best shot."
As for the Colonels, they face a tough test in a Wednesday doubleheader against Calhoun at home. Cass might have to sweep that twin bill just to have a chance of beating out Woodland for the No. 2 seed in the region.
Even if the Colonels wind up as the third seed, it's still an impressive achievement for the program just to qualify for the playoffs.
Two years ago, Cass won just four games, as several freshmen cut their teeth at the varsity level. Last season, the team improved dramatically, thanks in part to the arrival of then-freshmen Hight and Woods. That team went 13-17 and came up two wins shy of making it to state.
This time around, the Colonels finished the job.
"It's amazing to see the team progress like they have," Washington said. "They deserve it. They've put the work in. They've bought in to what we're saying, playing as a team and that no one person is bigger than the team. It's paying off for us. I couldn't be more proud of them."