COLUMBUS, Ga. -- Their first experience in Georgia's softball Elite Eight couldn't have started any worse for the Fannin County Lady Rebels, and even though they were eliminated from the Class AA bracket Friday, they had a far better feeling exiting the South Commons Complex on Friday than on Thursday.
Fannin committed five errors in the first two innings of Thursday's opening 5-0 loss to Pike County, but the Lady Rebels rebounded Friday morning to eliminate Bleckley County, 3-0, before having their season end in a 4-3 loss to Blessed Trinity, which then eliminated Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe.
"After the way we played yesterday, making five errors in the first two innings, most kids would have shut down," said Fannin coach David Dyer, whose team turned five double plays Friday. "We regrouped and beat a pretty good ballclub this morning; then we had this team down twice but couldn't hold it.
"I'm proud of my kids. This is a big change from what they're used to in Blue Ridge as far as atmosphere, and they did a good job today of adjusting."
The Lady Rebels (26-16) held 2-1 and 3-2 leads, the latter on Natalie McLaughlin's fourth-inning homer, but the Lady Titans (27-15) rallied each time, eventually winning on Aileen Pollitzer's bases-loaded single in the seventh.
In Fannin's win, senior Alexis Collis had three hits and Missy Dixon and Ashley Watkins each had two, while senior pitcher Sadie Golden scattered eight hits.
Fellow Class AA contender LFO also split a pair of games Friday, defeating Southeast Bulloch 9-5 before falling 6-3 to Blessed Trinity and finishing fourth.
As in their loss to Pike County the night before, one poor inning defensively did the Lady Warriors in. Holding a 3-2 lead, LFO committed four errors in a four-run Lady Titans fifth inning.
"Our kids fought their tails off, but I personally feel two teams beat us that weren't better than us," LFO coach Tony Ellis said. "The team that makes the least mistakes normally wins, especially at this level. Also, we had some missed opportunities. Our kids earned the right to be here, but it's frustrating because you can't give teams extra outs and that's what we did in both losses.
LFO (26-12) outhit Blessed Trinity 10-4, led by Maryanne Morgan and Courtney Crawford with three hits each and Kandi Gates with two hits and two RBIs. Pollitzer's two-run triple was the big blow for Blessed Trinity, which will face Buford, a surprising 3-2 loser to Pike County, in the losers-bracket final this morning.
In the earlier LFO win, Morgan led a 13-hit Lady Warriors attack with four hits and pitcher Megan Smith allowed only one, a two-out single in the fifth. Devan Brown had two hits and three RBIs, while Gates drove in two runs.
In Class AAAA, Northwest Whitfield nearly rallied from losing its first game to playing today, but the Lady Bruins ran out of gas after winning two games Friday, falling 7-5 to Whitewater to finish fourth.
Northwest held a 3-2 lead heading into the seventh before a bases-loaded, two-run single by Kim Perkins and a two-base error turned into a 7-3 Whitewater lead. Northwest, led by Bayli Cruse's two hits and two RBIs, scored twice in the seventh but the rally fell short.
"I asked them to fight today and they did, and as a coach that's all you can ask," said Northwest coach Shane Ramsey, who returns every player next year. "As disappointed as we are, it's exciting to know we're getting everybody back."
The Lady Bruins (27-8) earlier edged Loganville 4-3 on Mykeah Johnson's walk-off home run in the seventh inning. Johnson, who had three RBIs, and Macy Weeks had two hits each, while Emily Boyd struck out eight in earning the pitching win.
Northwest then defeated Union Grove, 3-1, as Cruse and Weeks hit home runs and Boyd allowed five hits and struck out six. Union Grove had a runner on third with one out in the sixth, but Boyd fanned Jacqueline Turner and got a flyout to end the threat.
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 ...