lady bears

The 2020 Lady Bears softball team huddles on the field for the final time following the Elite 8 match up against Ringgold.

– Photo by Jennifer Carter Johnson

A pair of one-run losses in a best-of-three quarterfinal match up with eventual Class AAA champion Ringgold ended top-ranked Pierce County’s quest to reach Columbus and play for a state title.

The Region 1 champion Lady Bears (26-7; first in both the Atlanta Journal Constitution and MaxPreps polls) had their 15-game winning streak end Tuesday, October 27, in the series opener falling 5-4. The Region 6 fourth-seed Lady Tigers (23-10; ranked fourth by MaxPreps) prevailed 6-5 in Game 2 for the sweep.

Ringgold was joined at the “Final Four” by fifth-ranked Region 6 third-seed Rockmart, eighth-ranked Region 8 champion Oconee County, and ninth-ranked Region 2 runner-up Pike County in the double-elimination “Final Four.

The Lady Tigers blanked Pike County 12-0 before losing 7-6 to Rockmart 7-6. Ringgold bounced back to eliminate Pike County 16-2 and then beat Rockmart 9-2 and 7-6 in the finals for a second straight state title.

Ringgold became the first Class AAA repeat champion since 2014 and 2015 when Calhoun won back-to-back titles.

Quarterfinals

Game 1

No. 4 Ringgold 5

No. 1 Lady Bears 4

A two-single in the top of the seventh inning pushed home the game-winner from second and capped a two-run rally lifting the Lady Tigers past PCHS.

Pierce County had battled back from a 3-0 deficit scoring twice in the third inning and twice in the sixth to take a 4-3 lead.

A first-pitch, leadoff double set up the seventh for Ringgold against Natalie Herrin (7 IP, 9 H, 5 R, 5 ER, 4 K, 1 BB, 1 HBP). A run-scoring bloop single off a 3-1 pitch followed tying the score at 4-all. A third consecutive hit followed putting runners at first and second.

PCHS third baseman Rebecca Deloach turned a grounder into double play stepping on third and throwing to first. A 3-2 pitch to the No. 6 hitter in the lineup found green grass in centerfield for what proved to be the game-winner.

The Lady Bears would get the potential tying run in scoring position in the bottom of the seventh. Natalee Griffin (1-for-3) drew a one-out walk. She was forced at second on Herrin’s fielder’s choice ground out.

Deloach (2-for-2) singled to left on an eight-pitch at bat to keep the inning alive before the final out was recorded.

The visitors struck for two runs in the second inning on a two-out, bases loaded single. Ringgold got a leadoff double, sacrifice bunt, a fielder’s choice bunt, and a two-out intentional walk before the big hit.

The Lady Tigers plated a run in the third inning courtesy of a sacrifice fly. A leadoff double and sacrifice bunt moved the runner to third with the sac fly coming two pitches later.

PCHS scored two runs in the bottom of the inning after two outs and nobody on base ripping four consecutive hits. Tivona Myles (1-for-3) set the rally in motion with a two-out bloop single to center. Makayla Pitts (1-for-4) followed two pitches later with a run-scoring double to right-center.

Griffin delivered a run-scoring single to right on the ensuing pitch cutting the deficit to 3-2. Herrin’s hooking and sinking liner down the left field line was caught by a head-long diving left fielder saving a run. It was the second diving catch by a Ringgold outfielder in consecutive innings.

Herrin retired nine of the next 10 batters from the fourth through the sixth innings. Meanwhile, PCHS left two runners on in the bottom of the fourth and put together a two-run rally in the sixth following a 1-2-3 fifth.

The Lady Bears loaded the bases with one out in the sixth with the inning being set up by a leadoff error on a ball hit by Herrin. Deloach followed with a single and Madison Pickett (1-for-3) delivered a one-out single. Deloach was lifted for pinch-runner Rylee Carden and Pickett was removed for courtesy-runner Sarah Davis.

Natalie Sullivan hit into a fielder’s choice scoring Herrin with the tying run and leaving the bases loaded. Pinch-hitter Rachel Cason followed with a fielder’s choice grounder plating  Carden with the go-ahead run.

Game 2

No. 4 Ringgold 6

No. 1 Lady Bears 5

Pierce County had the tying run gunned down at the plate for the final out of the game ending the Lady Bears’ season.

Trailing 6-2 after five innings, PCHS chipped away at the Lady Tigers’ advantage scoring twice in the sixth and once in the seventh before the 21st out was recorded.

Herrin (2-for-3) led off the Lady Bears’ sixth with a first-pitch double. She moved to third on a passed ball and scored on a Deloach groundout.

Kylie Allen (1-for-3) followed three pitches later with a double with Pickett’s (2-for-2) ensuing single putting runners on the corners. Sullivan lifted a sacrifice fly to center scoring Allen to get PCHS to within 6-4.

Myles (1-for-3) hit the second offering of the seventh inning into the rightfield corner. She scored when Pitts (2-for-4) singled one pitch later.

Griffin’s sacrifice bunt advancing Pitts was followed by an intentional walk to Herrin. Pitts was gunned down at the plate trying to score on Deloach’s deep fly ball to left-center.

Pierce County grabbed an early 1-0 lead in the first inning courtesy of an error and passed ball. Griffin was the beneficiary of the one-out error. She stole second and moved to third on a wild pitch. Griffin raced home on a 2-2 passed ball.

The Lady Tigers plated two runs in the bottom of the second against Amiya Tomlinson (3.1 IP, 4 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 0 K, 5 BB). A one-out, run-scoring single followed a sacrifice bunt. A two-out single gave Ringgold a 2-1 lead.

PCHS evened the score in the fourth on a wild pitch. Herrin hit a leadoff double, advanced to third on an errant pickoff throw by the catcher, and scored on a 2-1 wild pitch.

Ringgold struck for two runs in the bottom of the fourth to take the lead for good and added two runs in the fifth.

A leadoff walk to start the bottom of the fourth came home to roost after a stolen base, passed ball and a run-scoring fielder’s choice. A two-base error on a stolen base attempt scored on a sacrifice fly for a 4-2 lead.

The Lady Tigers extended their margin to 6-2 scoring twice on a bases load, two-out error in the fifth against Herrin (2.2 IP, 2 H, 2 R, 0 ER, 2 K, 2 BB, 1 HBP). A leadoff single and back-to-back two-out walks loaded the bases. An ensuing two-base error on a grounder plated Ringgold’s final two runs.