Sports

October 4, 2012

Region 7-4A softball: Dalton makes state, still has shot at tourney title

With a state playoffs berth already clinched, Dalton High’s softball team just kept rolling.

The Lady Catamounts completed their run to the Class 4A state playoffs with a 3-0 win against Cass on Wednesday in the Region 7-4A tournament at Heritage Point. Then, Dalton decided it liked the potential of going worst to first and beat Cedartown 3-1 to keep the team’s region title hopes alive.

“Right now it’s just about survival,” Lady Cats coach Jeff McKinney said after the win over Cass clinched a spot at state. “Now we’re playing next week.”

It was the arms of senior pitchers Allie Blackwood and Carson Hagin that carried Dalton (13-16). The duo split the 14 innings — Blackwood on the mound against Cass and Hagin against Cedartown — and combined to allow one unearned run off nine hits while striking out 14.

Blackwood also had a big day at the plate, finishing the two games with four hits and three RBIs. Her two-out, two-run double capped a three-run third against the Lady Colonels. Against Cedartown, she was 3-for-3 with two doubles and a solo home run in the fourth.

Against Cass, Sarah Stinnett’s RBI single off Courtney Bailey drove in Hannah Jones. Then Blackwood’s double made it 3-0, and twice she had to fight out of one-out, bases-loaded jams to preserve the lead and season.

“It’s a lot easier to pitch when it’s 3-0 than 1-0,” McKinney said. “You’re not as tense in those situations.”

Stinnett, who caught the final out of the game, summed up lowest-seeded Dalton’s chances against Heritage-Catoosa at 5 p.m. today in the consolation bracket final. The winner will advance to play Northwest Whitfield at 7 p.m., but will need to beat the top-seeded Lady Bruins twice to take the title.

The loser will be the region’s No. 3 seed for next week’s Class 4A state playoffs. Cedartown is the fourth seed.

“Anything can happen,” Stinnett said. “We were the bottom of the region and made it to No. 3.”

Cass, which entered the tourney as the No. 2 seed from Sub-region 7A-4A, finished the year 12-17.

“It’s definitely a tough way to end,” Lady Colonels coach Kyle Clayton said. “Basically what it came down to was Dalton had the big hit and big opportunity.”

With the win, Dalton completed an underdog run to reach the state playoffs for the second consecutive year.

The Lady Cats started outside of the top four seeds and finished there in 2011. However, they weren’t the lowest-seeded team going in, which they were this year.

They also stopped with fourth place last season.

Against Cedartown’s Lady Bulldogs (13-14), who had defeated Sub-region 7A-4A’s top-seeded River Ridge 5-4 to clinch their spot in the state playoffs, Dalton broke a scoreless tie in the fourth off Blackwood’s homer and then added a run in the fifth when Blayne Thomason’s infield single drove in Jessica Cisneros.

With the score 2-1 in the sixth, Blakely Thomason put down a squeeze bunt and Blackwood slid home safely.

Hagin then escaped a first-and-third, two-out jam in the seventh.

“Everything is just matchups,” McKinney said. “(Cedartown) had just come off watching River Ridge pitch. ... Carson Hagin had a great day pitching. We’re just glad to have the opportunity. The girls decided they want to keep playing.”

 

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