DALTON, Ga. -- The opening day of a region softball tournament is full of perils for the top seeds. After working all season to position themselves for the playoffs, a first-day tournament loss means having to fight back.
In competitive Region 7-AAA it happens nearly every season and it did again -- almost twice -- Saturday at Dalton's Heritage Point Park. The four top seeds played winners from the morning session, and only third-seeded Heritage escaped without any drama.
While the Generals were dispatching Cartersville 12-1 in five innings, second-seeded Ringgold was escaping Dalton's upset bid, 5-4, and top-seeded Allatoona edged Gilmer County 4-2. Fourth-seeded LaFayette, however, was not as fortunate. The Lady Ramblers fell 3-2 in eight innings to Pickens County.
"This is traditionally a round where you get an upset or two," Heritage coach Steve Chattin said following the Generals' easy win. "As you go on you have to play better. Even though we can't complain about the way we hit it today, we have to be even more consistent starting Monday."
Heritage will take on Ringgold and Allatoona will play Pickens in Monday's 7 p.m. winners-bracket semifinals, after Saturday's losers face off at 5.
Heritage (22-7) broke open a 4-1 game with eight fourth-inning runs, sparked by Jesslyn Stockard's two-run double and Allison Vaughn's two-run triple. Stockard, Amber Burton, Brandy Goldsmith and Kristin West each had two hits.
Ringgold's (18-9) narrow win followed a 14-2 regular-season romp Thursday at Dalton. The Lady Catamounts weren't so giving Saturday, breaking out to a 3-0 lead on Carson Hagin's first-inning homer. However, Ringgold scored single runs in each of the first five innings, Hayley Robinson's second solo homer providing the winning margin in the fifth.
"The ball was flying out here today," Ringgold coach Rachel Hodge said. "We scrapped back with a run here and there. We played well and Hayley hit it well, but it's hard to come out every day like we did the other day against them with 17 hits. You have to win one like this every now and then. Softball is a game of inches and it's postseason, so you should expect 5-4 games."
LaFayette (16-13) lost in frustrating fashion to Pickens when the Lady Ramblers had runners on third and second in the bottom of the eighth inning and could not score. After Pickens' Kennedy McTaggert's single in the top of the eighth gave the Lady Dragons a 3-2 lead, LaFayette had the potential tying and winning runs in scoring position after Madison Queen blooped a double to right to open the bottom half.
However, Shelby Narmore, who drove in the Lady Ramblers' earlier two runs, hit a fly ball to right and Jessica Ingram was out on a close play at home after tagging from third. The next batter popped out to end the game.
Lindsey Young is a sports writer at the Chattanooga Times Free Press who started work at the Chattanooga News-Free Press 24 years ago. He covers the Northwest Georgia prep beat and NASCAR. Lindsey’s hometown is Ringgold, Ga., and he graduated from Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe High School. He received an associate’s degree from Dalton Junior College (now Dalton State) and a bachelor’s degree in communications from UTC. He has won several writing awards, including two Tennessee Sports ...