Generals slug their way to Region 6-AAAA softball crown
Softball teams want to be peaking at the right time and the Heritage Generals couldn’t have picked a more opportune time to be playing their best softball of the season.
The Navy-and-Red capped an impressive 4-0 run in the Region 6-AAAA tournament last Wednesday night by outslugging top-ranked Northwest Whitfield, 138, in the championship game at Heritage Point Park in Dalton. It was the second win over the Lady Bruins in as many nights.
The first win over Northwest came on the arm of freshman pitcher Rachel Gibson, who struck out 15 of the 18 batters she faced in a six-inning perfect game, ending in a 9-0 Heritage victory. The ninth-ranked Generals also hammered seventhranked Ridgeland, 16-1, in a winners’ bracket game on Monday after dispatching Gilmer, 7-2, in Monday’s opener.
Since a 6-4 loss at LaFayette on Sept. 26, Heritage has won six in a row and outscored its opponents, 73-12, during that stretch. Eight of the 12 runs they have surrendered came in the finals against the Lady Bruins.
This is the third region title in the last four seasons for the Generals, who will take a 20-8 record into their Class AAAA state playoff opener this Wednesday (Oct. 11).
“They just trust each other and that’s really to key to it all,” head coach Tanner Moore said. “When things are going wrong and you are trying to figure things out, you just have to stick together. You just have to put your trust in one another and know that what you are doing is the right thing, and that if you keep doing the right thing and knocking on the door, it will eventually open up.”
Or you can simply beat the door down, which is what the Generals did the entire tournament.
Heritage batted a whopping .449 as a team (53-of-118) in the four tournament games, pounding out 12 doubles and smacking 10 homeruns, including four more roundtrippers on Wednesday.
Kaylie Frogge was 11-of-15 (.733) in the tournament with eight RBIs. Madi Morris was 10-for-15 (.667) with three homers - all in the game against Ridgeland - and drove in nine runs. Reagan Armour had a homer and six runs
batted in, while Rachel Gibson was 7-for-13 (.538) at the plate with four doubles, two homers and five RBIs.
“We have a certain approach at the plate and it took a while for them to adjust to that,” Moore added. “But they finally figured it out and I think they fully understand it now. They’ve really bought into it and done an awesome job.”
Northwest (26-4) got out to a 3-0 lead in the title game on a threerun homer by KayLeigh Fitzgerald. But the first homer of shortstop Ansley Bice’s career in the bottom of the first
pulled the Generals to within a run and they would tie things up later in the frame as Reagan Armour brought in a run on a groundout.
From there, it turned into a game of “Can You Top This?” as both teams traded big hit after big hit.
Northwest retook a 4-3 lead in the top of the third, only to see Heritage answer on Frogge’s two-run, seeing-eye single. The Lady Bruins would score the tying run a half-inning later and had two runners on base, but Gibson would take over for starter Taelyn Bates in the circle and strike out the final two hitters to get out of a jam.
Gibson put her team back in front with a oneout solo homer in the bottom of the fourth, but the Lady Bruins showed off their championship pedigree by scratching out a run in the top of the fifth and retaking the lead, 8-6, on Fitzgerald’s second long ball of the night in the top of the sixth.
That lead, however, wouldn’t last.
Heritage stepped on the accelerator and blew past the Lady Bruins with a seven-run sixth inning. Mallory Lowe’s ground-rule double and Gibson’s subsequent two-run blast knotted the game, 8-8, and with Bice at second following a single and a walk by Morris, birthday girl Katie Proctor delivered
an RBI-single back through the box that would become the game-winning hit.
The Generals would make sure of the outcome later in the inning. Frogge hopped all over a pitch one batter later, knocking in three as she collected her first career dinger, while an error on a tough infield chopper would bring in Armour for the final run of the night.
Northwest would put runners on the corners with one out in the top of the seventh, but Gibson would get a strikeout and induce a pop-up in foul territory on the third base side that was gloved by Bice on the run near the fence to end the game.
Moore said his team didn’t panic, even being down twice in the game.
“We just kept reassuring them that we are never out of a game if we stick together and take it one at-bat and one pitch at a time,” he added. “We just kept scratching and clawing.”
Morris was 3-for-3 with three runs scored, while Frogge went 3-for4 with five RBIs. Gibson went 3-for-4 at the plate with three RBIs and got the win in the circle.
Up next for Heritage is the first round of the state playoffs against Cedartown, the No. 4 seed from Region 5. The Generals will host the best-of-three series, starting with a doubleheader on
Wednesday, and they would also host the second-round series, should they win.
But Moore said his team isn’t looking that far ahead.
“All we’re focused on is round one,” he continued. “Our motto is ‘on to the next one’ and that’s where our focus is right now, but I can’t repeat myself enough. I’m just really proud of them.”
Morris’ hit her 10th homer of the season during the tournament, breaking the Heritage record, once held by former Chattanooga Moc Jesslyn Stockard. Stockard belted nine homers in the 2011 season for the Generals.
The Heritage Generals scored 45 runs in four games to win the Region 6-AAAA title, including 9-0 and 13-8 victories over No. 1-ranked Northwest Whitfield. (Photo by Danielle Pickett)