North Murray High School’s softball team was three games under .500 at the close of the regular season, but the only record that matters now is the Lady Mountaineers’ 3-1 mark in the Region 5-3A tournament.
Led by a group of hitters who have found their stroke, North Murray (15-16) beat Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe 8-2 on Tuesday night at Hamilton Crossing in Adairsville to clinch a top-four finish in the region and with it a berth in the Class 3A state playoffs, which start next week. The Lady Mountaineers then beat Sonoraville 5-2 in the losers’ bracket semifinal to assure themselves no worse than a No. 3 seed for state.
Also at the tournament, Coahulla Creek’s season ended with a 3-0 loss to Sonoraville in the second round of the losers’ bracket.
North Murray coach Steve Granger, who is in his first year leading the program, said others might have doubted his team after the regular season, but his players have used that in a positive way.
“I think a lot of that is motivation,” Granger said. “Thinking they are the underdog, we don’t have anything to lose. People didn’t think that we deserved to be in the state playoffs, and we have used that and it has paid off. We are going to keep using that mentality throughout the playoffs.”
This is the third straight season North Murray has made the state playoffs. The Lady Mountaineers were Region 5-3A’s No. 3 seed last season, when they entered state with a 12-16 record. They were Region 7-2A’s No. 4 seed in 2011, when they entered state just four games above .500 at 16-12.
Against LFO on Tuesday, North Murray’s Megan Pittman had a solo homer as part of her 2-for-3 effort, while Amber Bandy was 3-for-4 with a double and Sarah Silvers and Kaitlin Epps each had a pair of RBIs. Kara Deal contributed a pair of hits in addition to pitching a complete game, allowing five hits and no earned runs.
The hitting continued in the second game, with Pittman going 3-for-4 with a solo homer and a pair of runs scored. Baylee Sutton added a two-run homer and drove in three while going 2-for-4. Deal was 3-for-4 at the plate and again went the distance in the circle, allowing four hits.
“I can’t say enough about Kara coming in and pitching 14 innings,” Granger said. “I know they say those girls can pitch all day long, but that is still tough.
“We were swinging the bats well. Megan is seeing the ball very well, and I think that has been contagious,” Granger said. “A couple of them get on, we get a couple of hits and we start believing.”
The Lady Mountaineers will play at 7 p.m. today against the loser of today’s winners’ bracket final between Cartersville and Ringgold.
If North Murray wins today, the Lady Mountaineers will finish no worse than second and play in the championship round Thursday, needing to beat the winners’ bracket champion twice to claim the region title.
• Sonoraville 3, Coahulla Creek 0: Senior pitcher Erin Harden struck out nine batters, but the Lady Colts (21-9) managed just two hits — from Sydney Ross and LaSha Hedden — and saw their time at the tournament and their season come to an end.
The Lady Colts were seeded third entering the region tournament after going 10-4 during 5-3A competition in the regular season. Their only region losses were to the two teams playing in the winners’ bracket final today — Cartersville and Ringgold.
“I am definitely disappointed in how it ended, but we definitely had a great season,” Coahulla Creek coach Josh Swiney said. “As a first-year coach, I couldn’t have asked for better effort day in and day out than I got from this group of players. They made my job a lot easier in my first season.”
• Pittman and Sutton took two of the three individual honors on the All-Region 5-3A softball team, as selected by the league’s coaches, while Coahulla Creek shared the lead for total selections to the team with Ringgold.
Pittman, a junior third baseman, was chosen as the region’s Defensive Player of the Year. Sutton, a junior shortstop, was selected as Offensive Player of the Year. Both players also filled slots in the all-region first-team lineup.
Harden, a senior pitcher, and teammate Shelbe Dilbeck, a junior second baseman, were also chosen for the first-team.
The Lady Colts also had four second-team selections: sophomore first baseman Baylee Adkins, junior catcher Emily Banks, freshman left fielder Madeleine Kalafut and junior right fielder Sydney Wilson.
Coahulla Creek’s six picks to the standout lineup tied with Ringgold, which had the Pitcher of the Year in Abby McKinney.
No other team had more than three selections.
• Christian Heritage lost its first match at the Area 4-A tournament at the Walker School in Marietta but won in the losers’ bracket to clinch one of the area’s four berths in the Class A state tournament.
The Lady Lions (20-9) entered the seven-team tournament as the No. 4 seed. They lost to fifth-seeded Darlington 25-18, 25-21 before beating No. 3 seed Gordon Lee 25-17, 25-19.
“We didn’t play together in the first match,” said Lady Lions coach Robyn Clement, who was without community coach Lisa Donahue. “We had three people filling in for Lisa. We weren’t exactly playing together as a united team. In the second match, we were fired up. ... From the first person to the last person, they played at the top of their game.”
Jessica Seehorn led Christian Heritage with 26 assists, nine digs, eight kills and six aces. Brenna Mugge had 20 digs, Savannah Roberson had 18 kills, Drew Tipton tallied six kills and Mariah Cox had three aces.
The Lady Lions face Darlington again at 5 p.m. Thursday at Walker, with the loser seeded fourth for state. With a win, Christian Heritage would finish no worse than third and play the loser of Walker and Mount Paran Christian at 6 p.m. with second place on the line.
• Dalton did not report results from Tuesday’s scheduled Chattanooga Cross Country League meet by The Daily Citizen’s deadline.