Woodland downs Calhoun to enter state playoffs on high note

By NICHOLAS SULLIVAN
Posted 10/14/20

Woodland knew it couldn't win the Region 7-AAAAA championship in its last league game, but the Wildcats still had plenty to play for Tuesday in their regular-season finale. Hosting Calhoun, which had …

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Woodland downs Calhoun to enter state playoffs on high note

Posted

Woodland knew it couldn't win the Region 7-AAAAA championship in its last league game, but the Wildcats still had plenty to play for Tuesday in their regular-season finale.

Hosting Calhoun, which had already secured the region crown, Woodland broke out of a mini two-game losing streak with an impressive 5-1 victory to carry plenty of confidence into the Class 5A state playoffs.

Woodland (20-9, 12-3) had its postseason fate all but sealed when it suffered a doubleheader sweep Sept. 10 at Calhoun (19-8, 14-1). The Yellow Jackets earned narrow 6-5 and 7-3 wins in the twin bill only to see the Wildcats return the favor this time around.

"We talked about it, we've got to be in playoff mode," Wildcats head coach Colman Roberts said. "This is an example right here, a playoff atmosphere. I knew we could beat them. Played good up there, Game 1 and Game 2. ...

"Proud of them. Everybody pitched in."

Tuesday's victory helped Woodland avoid entering the postseason on a three-game skid, although there would have been no shame in losing twice to Lassiter and once to Calhoun.

In fairness, the Wildcats were probably a bit rusty last week during their home-and-home series with the Trojans, who are ranked No. 11 in 6A. But Roberts' crew looked comfortable and confident throughout Tuesday's outstanding performance.

"I feel like playing Lassiter helped us," Roberts said. "Me and coach [Jason] Campbell from Lassiter did that on purpose, we played back-to-back in a playoff situation. They're very good. I told the kids that. We're not going to play them to get beat up, but we're going to play them to get better and see great pitching. A lot of D-I kids on that team."

It seemed to help Tuesday, as Lainey Baker throughly stifled a powerful Jackets lineup. The junior struck out 10 with no walks allowed. Calhoun scored its only run during a two-out rally in the sixth inning to briefly pull within 4-1.

All seven hits Baker allowed were singles. It was a stark contrast to the road doubleheader in which the Jackets connected on eight total home runs.

"Lainey was great in the circle," Roberts said. "[Catcher] Kailey [Baker] called a great game."

Offensively, Woodland managed eight hits — also all singles — with Michiah Hicks recording two of them. It was truly a complete team effort, as every Wildcats batter recorded at least one hit — aside from the Baker sisters, who more than made up for it defensively.

Hannah Miller's run-scoring single in the first drove in Ansley Evans and gave the Wildcats an early edge. Hicks had a key RBI in the fifth inning, scoring Dylynn Motes to extend the lead to 2-0. Morgan Cooper followed with a two-run single to bring home Hicks and Evans, who finished 1-for-2 with a walk, a hit by pitch and two runs scored.

Once Calhoun put up its lone tally, Woodland immediately got that run back in the home half of the sixth, when Cambrie Carrington, who had a fantastic catch in right field, and Cassie Jones each singled with two outs. Jones' hit drove home courtesy runner Camber Wallace for the game's final run.

Fresh off their victory over the fifth-ranked Jackets, the Wildcats, who are No. 12 themselves in the classification, will await the Region 6-AAAAA playoff results to know who they will host Monday in the first round of state. North Springs hosts Lithia Springs in a best-of-three series this week, with the winner facing Woodland.

"I'm real happy with how they played," Roberts said of his team. "Going into Monday, we have a lot of confidence. We don't know who we're going to play yet, but I think we're going to be ready."