There is even more pressure when your team is down a run and has to stage a comeback to advance.
Fortunately for Woodland, the Lady Wildcats were able to raise their level of play under pressure at home Tuesday to defeat East Paulding 8-5 and advance to the second round Thursday.
“I’m proud of them for coming back and fighting back and battling back,” Woodland head coach Colman Roberts said. “It showed a lot of pride.”
Woodland is the second seed in the Region 5-AAAAA tournament and East Paulding was the seventh seed. Adding to the pressure of high expectations was the fact that the Lady Wildcats needed to win to stay alive for the state playoffs.
The pressure did not seem to get to the team early in the game as senior Ashley Jordan doubled to the right-center field gap to bring in Brandee Godfrey and Bailey Guyton. Godfrey reached base on a walk and Guyton laid down a well-placed bunt and reached base when the East Paulding defense was unable to make the play.
“We had a bunch of guys step up today. Bailey Guyton and Brandee Godfrey had some big hits,” Roberts said. “I called Bailey Guyton down [to the third base coaches box] and I asked her, ‘Can you get it down?’ And she did, so that’s big.”
Jordan’s RBI double was her second of three hits in the game. She also had a walk.
“I get a little nervous, yeah, but I’m more excited than anything,” Jordan said of the playoff atmosphere. “I think that gave us a little boost to get our first win.”
East Paulding responded in the third inning with three unearned runs, partially due to a Woodland fielding error.
“We weren’t sharp at all in any phase,” Roberts said. “I’m pleased that they came back, but I hope to be a little more sharp all the way around next game.”
After a scoreless fourth inning, the pressure started mounting on the Lady Wildcats. However, Kereston Franklin broke through in the fifth with a double to spark her team.
Sydney Hodorff and Darby Cagle each reached base after Franklin to load the bases for Godfrey. The senior second baseman delivered by poking one through the hole between the second and first baseman to score the tying run. The right fielder’s throw to first base was thrown away and a second run scored to give Woodland a 4-3 lead. Guyton then hit a sacrifice fly to center field and Bailey Roberts drove in Godfrey two batters later to give Woodland a 6-3 lead.
“[East Paulding’s pitcher] threw away from us most of the night, but a lot of the girls hit it hard, just right at people,” Roberts said. “I’m proud of how they stuck with it, though, and came back.”
Woodland added two insurance runs in the sixth when, after a Bridgett Hampton double, Godfrey hit a sacrifice fly. Guyton then doubled to score Franklin and give the Lady Wildcats a 7-3 lead.
East Paulding scored two runs in the seventh inning, but it would not be enough as Woodland moves on to the second round.
Godfrey and Guyton, the eighth and ninth batters in the order each had two RBIs. Eight-of-nine Woodland batters either scored a run or drove in a run during the game, displaying the lineup’s balance.
Woodland’s bats warmed up as the game went on and the team is confident it can stay hot until it faces Paulding Thursday at 5:30 p.m.
“We’re determined,” Jordan said. “Especially if we just keep our attitudes great and play as hard as we can, I think we can go really far.”
Canes take over second place
The Cartersville High softball team overtook Coahulla Creek for second place in Region 5-AAA Tuesday as the Lady Canes defeated the Colts 1-0.
“It was a barn-burner,” Cartersville head coach Rick Holsomback said. “It was intense. I’m very proud of the girls.”
Savannah Summers drove in Molly Wilson in the bottom of the sixth inning with two outs to win the game for Cartersville and vault them into second place in the region with just one game remaining.
Pitcher Annalyn Yantis gave up just one hit and struck out 11 Coahulla Creek batters. She now has 154 on the season in 113 innings. The junior Samford commit got out of some jams after errors put runners on base.
“We had a couple of errors, but we overcame those,” Holsomback said. “Once again, our adversity has made us stronger. We played a good bunch tonight. We had a lot of good sacrifices. We played well.”
Hunter Irvin and Kennedy Bailey each went 2-for-3 in the game.
Cartersville will have to beat Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe, who was 6-7 in the region coming into Tuesday, in order to secure the second seed in the region tournament. Cartersville beat LFO 5-0 on Sept. 3. The two teams will meet again Thursday in the last regular season game before the postseason begins.