MOULTRIE – Next stop: Columbus.
The headline was actually written in July of 2017:
“CCHS softball wants 20 wins, region, top 8”
It was followed by this lead:
“Softball in Colquitt County is growing and developing at a rate that someday, at the high school level, the Packer varsity program should achieve everything on its wish list: a 20-win season, a Region 1-7A championship and a run in the GHSA tournament that ends in Columbus.”
Two years later, check all three off the list. The Region 1-7A champions under head coach Chance Pitts, with a program-best 26-5 record, are in the GHSA 7A Elite 8.
One could not witness two completely opposite softball games, but Colquitt County was the winner both times Wednesday in the second-round best-of-3 doubleheader vs. Norcross High at Packer Park.
Katlynn Powers, sophomore outfielder, belted a walk-off solo home run at the last possible moment to avoid extra innings. There were two outs in the bottom of the seventh of a scoreless game, nobody on base, and Powers was facing 6-1 Blue Devil junior Bella Krauth.
In 6 2/3 shutout innings, Krauth had allowed just three hits, struck out eight and didn’t walk anyone.
With the count 1-0, Powers sent the next pitch to straightaway centerfield and over the fence. It was her second long-ball of the state tournament and ended things at 1-0 Packers.
Powers made junior pitcher Jade Horne a shutout winner. In seven full frames, Horne also didn’t walk a batter, and she scattered four hits, two of which came in the top of the seventh.
Norcross’ most dangerous offensive weapon proved to be first baseman Faith Lawrence. She doubled with one out in the top of the seventh. Emma O’Dell was up next, and Abby Plymel at third base held her to an infield single.
That kept the runners on base, but in scoring position. Horne proceeded to catch Serenity Starr looking on a breaking pitch, and Molly Hamrick went down swinging to keep the game 0-0.
Horne only had one whiff going into the final inning.
There was just as much drama but a whole lot more offense in Game 2 between Colquitt County and Norcross. Kelsey Patel twice flipped the advantage with two-run doubles, the second one giving Colquitt County a 7-6 lead in the top of the fifth.
Kyla Morris retired the first eight batters she faced in relief, ran into some trouble with Lawrence’s two-out double in the bottom of the seventh, but with her fifth strikeout there was a massive celebration outside the circle. Colquitt County won 9-6 to complete a sweep.
Scoring was more frequent in the nightcap, Colquitt striking first with Callie Faircloth’s two-out, two-run single in the top of the second. Sarah Harrell drew a walk against Krauth – starting for the second straight contest in the circle – and Patel began a three-hit game with a single. Powers did a different kind of job than her previous at-bat, moving her teammates over to scoring position for Faircloth.
Norcross was the home team for this game and scored three times in the bottom half when three hits loaded the bases. All three runs touched home via mistakes by the Packers, but freshman pitcher Emily Allegood got the final out looking with two in scoring position.
Plymel – like Patel – doubled twice. She led off the top of the third with a two-bagger going to right-center. Now facing Sierra Blackburn, Allegood singled, and with two outs Patel saw a softball hanging in her hot zone. She drove the runs home to make it 4-3 Packers, and scored later on a wild pitch for 5-3.
The Pack defense made three errors that figured in the Norcross scoring, and in the home fourth the Blue Devils went back in front 6-5 thanks to two such miscues. After Krauth reached on an error, Lea Smith singled and Kedzie Howe tripled in both tying the score. Howe touched home via a throwing error from the outfield.
Morris was pitching when Norcross regained the advantage, and her next pitch was lined into Plymel’s glove.
The Packers took over for good in the top of the fifth, which began with Norcross’ throwing error. Marlie Wingate bunted for a base hit, Harrell sacrificed the two runners to scoring position, and Patel was next for her second straight two-run double. Powers singled her home for 8-6.
Powers’ second RBI hit, in the top of the seventh, upped the advantage to 9-6.
Blackburn of Norcross broke up Morris’ string of outs in the home half, and she was held at third base on the Lawrence double. That was Lawrence’s third hit of the game. Morris fanned O’Dell to end it.
Faircloth in all had three hits for Colquitt as did Powers. Freshman catcher Madison Plymel singled twice.
• Colquitt County was one of four Class 7A teams to sweep its best-of-3 series Wednesday, and all four were waiting for Game 3 results in the other four series to find out their respective opponents for Thursday at the Columbus Softball Complex.
The state softball format switches to double-elimination at the Elite 8, and the Packers will play Oct. 24 at noon against either Grayson or Lassiter. The winner plays again Thursday at 8 p.m. while the loser is back in action at noon on Friday, Oct. 25.
Etowah eliminated North Gwinnett Wednesday and will face either South Forsyth or Peachtree Ridge. These are Colquitt’s potential second-game foes.