TUNNEL HILL —
Saturday’s one-game, winner-take-all conclusion to the Region 7-4A high school softball tournament had just about everything — extra innings, a bloody nose, multiple comebacks and a late-game controversy.
The only thing missing was a Northwest Whitfield victory.
Heritage-Catoosa scored three runs in the bottom of the eighth inning and won 8-7 to capture the region championship on the Lady Bruins’ field. The tournament, which was played all week at the Heritage Point softball complex in Dalton, finished at Northwest because the Georgia Special Olympics were held Saturday at the complex. The two teams played Thursday and the Lady Bruins won 4-3 to force the deciding contest.
Using the international tiebreaker during the extra inning — where the batting team starts the inning with a runner on second base — Northwest (28-6) scored two runs. Freshman right fielder Alyssa Ward’s two-out single drove in Macy Weeks, and a batter later, Colbie Thomas drove in pinch runner McCall Carlock.
Ward tried to score from second but center fielder Olivia Tamewitz’s throw to catcher Shelby Hammontree ended the inning.
Going against Northwest pitcher BriLeigh Baggett, Heritage’s Brooklynn Frazier walked and she advanced to second with Katie Pritchett going to third on a wild pitch. Ali Roberts’ bunt resulted in an error by the Lady Bruins and one run for the Lady Generals, who now had runners at second and third and trailing 7-6 with no outs.
The next play became the contentious moment. Baggett fielded Shea Headrick’s squeeze bunt and threw home to catcher Bayli Cruse, who appeared to tag a sliding Frazier before reaching home. However, the umpire ruled Cruse didn’t keep control of the ball and Heritage (26-7) tied the game.
“I never saw it come out,” Northwest coach Jason Brooker said. “(The umpire) said it came out. I don’t know if it was all the way in her mitt, but it was there and it was still. You could see a lot of the ball, but it never moved.”
With Brooker and Cruse arguing with the home-plate umpire, who had a bloody nose all game after being hit by a ball during pre-game warm-ups, Roberts and Headrick advanced to second and third base.
“That’s on the kids,” Lady Generals coach Steve Chattin said. “That’s nothing I did. They noticed that and did it on their own. That allowed for something else to happen later on.”
The next batter popped up to the infield, and Brooker called for an intentional walk when Tamewitz stepped up, hoping to load the bases for a force play at the plate. But the intentional walk attempt resulted in a wild pitch, and Roberts scored to end the game.
“The intentional walk, I take all the blame because we never practice that,” Brooker said. “It’s something we never do and it looked like it.”
Northwest, which won the previous two region titles and last year’s Class 4A state championship, entered this year’s region tournament as Sub-region 7B-4A’s No. 2 seed. Heritage was the sub-region’s top seed. The Lady Bruins still host in the state playoffs’ first best-of-three series, which starts Wednesday against Region 5 No. 3 seed LaGrange, but they aren’t guaranteed another home series in the second round. The Lady Generals will host in both the first and second round should they advance.
Northwest earned a 3-0 lead in the second inning when Baggett’s groundout drove in Weeks. Ward reached on an error and Mallory Souther and Kylee Ward each scored. Heritage responded with a run in the third and four runs in the fourth. Northwest made the score 5-4 in the sixth when Ward’s sacrifice fly brought home Weeks, and the Lady Bruins tied the game on Cruse’s single to drive in Thomas.
Heritage had a runner in scoring position in all eight innings, including the seventh, but only scored in three of those innings.
“We left a tremendous amount of runners on base,” Chattin said.
Baggett pitched 7 1/3 innings, allowing three earned runs off 13 hits and five walks. She struck out four. Thomas finished 2-for-5, and Cruse went 2-for-4.
• Southeast Whitfield joined Christian Heritage as the only two local high school volleyball teams reaching the state tournament.
The Lady Raiders finished second in the Area 7-4A bracket at Heritage-Catoosa’s gymnasium in Ringgold. Northwest Whitfield, which only needed to win one match Saturday, lost twice and did not reach the necessary top-four threshold to earn a spot in the state postseason. Dalton also lost in the tournament, and North Murray and Coahulla Creek each finished a win shy of state eligiblity in the Area 4-3A tournament held at the Lady Mountaineers’ gym in Chatsworth. Murray County was eliminated early in the Area 5-2A tournament.
Southeast won 25-13, 25-23 against third-seeded LaFayette in the second round of the winners’ bracket but lost 25-19, 25-16 to Heritage-Catoosa in the winners’ bracket finals. The Lady Raiders defeated Ridgeland 30-28, 26-24 in the losers’ bracket finals and then lost 25-14, 25-18, 25-18 to the Lady Generals in the best-of-five championship match.
Southeast will host for at least the first round of the state tournament.
Christian Heritage finished fourth in the Area 4-A tournament, which ended Thursday at Walker School in Marietta.
“I know the girls were upset to not win,” Lady Raiders coach Bethany Kenemer said, “because they wanted to win three in a row. We played well and finished second and we get a home match. That’s big.”
Angie Purkey had 72 assists and 29 digs, and Melisa Fraire finished with 54 digs for Southeast (29-12). Wendy Perez had 32 kills, 27 digs and 6.5 blocks. Gaby Gonzalez tallied 12 kills and 11 digs. Yolanda Melgarejo finished with 17 kills. Serena Ramsey added 17 kills. Tania Lopez had 26 digs.
Tori Brock had 22 digs.
Dalton’s season ended Saturday morning in the losers’ bracket first round with a 25-15, 25-23 loss to Gilmer, which finished fourth in the tournament.
Ashleigh Peters finished with six kills for the Lady Catamounts (6-26). Macie Noles led the team in assists and Lyndsey Parker added 12.
“It has been a tough year for us,” Dalton coach Joey Wills said, “but we certainly had a lot of growth and are definitely a lot better than we were at the start of the year. We’ve got a lot of folks returning.”
Northwest lost to Heritage in the winners’ bracket semifinals and then fell to either Gilmer or Ridgeland in the losers’ bracket. The Lady Bruins’ coaches did not report scores or individual statistics.
• Coahulla Creek lost 25-12, 25-17 to Sonoraville in the winners’ bracket semifinals and then lost 21-25, 28-26, 25-16 to Ringgold in an elimination match that awarded the winner a spot in the state tournament.
Macey Fossett had 28 assists and two aces for the Lady Colts (11-27). Gabrielle Henderson tallied 10 kills and two digs.
Erin Orem finished with six kills, five digs and two aces. Nikki Ross had 10 kills and one block.
“They were disappointed and rightfully so,” Coahulla Creek coach Julie Norton said. “We had a good opportunity to beat Ringgold but didn’t capitalize on it.”
North Murray did not report its scores or individual statistics, but Norton said the Lady Mountaineers lost both of their matches and did not qualify for state.
• Murray County’s season ended with a 25-10, 25-22 loss against Pepperell in the Area 5-2A tournament at Model’s gymnasium.
Alex Johnson had 19 assists and Heidy Cabral had 18 assists for the Lady Indians (3-22). Taylor Simmons added seven digs. Simmons joined teammate Tiffany Markey on the all-tournament team.
• Murray County competed at Georgia Highlands Invitational in Rome, and the boys team finished third out of 25 squads.
The Indians scored 108 points. Hillgrove won with 31 points, and Rome (103) finished second.
Servio Martinez finished fifth overall in 17 minutes, 54 seconds for Murray County, which also received scoring runs from Jose Ruiz (18th, 18:30), Ivan Delgado (23rd, 18:45), Filiberto Nunez (31st, 19:02) and Antonio Martinez (35th, 19:17).
Murray County’s girls team also competed, but assistant coach Mandy Ledford did not know how the Lady Indians’ place or score. Katlyn Richardson finished 38th in 23:51 for Murray County, which also received scoring runs from Chloe Brown (75th, 26:16), Nicole Hammett (27:53, 85th), Maddie Phillips (28:02, 86th) and Maria Ruiz (95th, 30:22).
• Southeast Whitfield’s girls team finished sixth out of 13 teams at the Shark Top Invitational at Pickens.
Anna Padilla (22:54) and Isabel Salinas (23:29) finished back-to-back in 25th and 26th place.
Other overall places were not available, but other scorers for the Lady Raiders were Jessica Cervantes (26:48), Maria Quijano (26:57) and Sandy Torres (31:25).
Team and individual places for the boy’s team were not available. Runners for the Raiders were Juan Ruiz (19:30), Daniel Triana (19:48), Enrique Ponce (20:23), Jose Hurtado (20:38) and Adrian Gonzales (23:24).