PLAYING IN its first state tournament in three years, Jackson County had no intentions of packing up early.
This is a team that has its sites set on Columbus.
The Jackson County softball team (19-15-1) beat Cartersville 5-1 and 6-4 in a doubleheader last Wednesday at Panther Field to advance to the Class AAA Sweet 16. Click here for photos.
The top-seeded Panthers, winners of 16 of their last 22 games, shut down the Purple Hurricanes in the first game and held off Cartersville in the final inning of the nightcap to earn a sweep of the Region 5-AAA no. 4 seed.
“We’ve had lots of situations like that,” coach Chessie Laird said of the nerve-racking late innings of the second game. “I think playing in those pressure situations early in the season and playing in those tournaments have allowed us to kind of regain our composure and be able to keep our composure.”
Jackson County will face Region 7-AAA no. 2 seed Fannin County today (Wednesday) in a doubleheader at Panther Field at 5 p.m. The teams will play a third game Thursday at 5 p.m. at Jackson County if needed. A win in this series will propel Jackson County to the state quarterfinals in Columbus.
Against Cartersville, Andrea Ledford drove home three runs in the opener, including a two-run double in the sixth inning that put Jackson County up 4-0. Victoria Woods followed with an RBI single that upped the lead to 5-0.
Jackson County led 1-0 early on after Shelton Kendrix picked up a first-inning RBI. Ledford made the score 2-0 in the bottom of the fourth when she grounded out to second to score Mason Garland.
Peyton Sorrells threw a complete game to earn the win, throwing six shutout innings before allowing an unearned run in the seventh inning.
In the second game, Cartersville found some late-inning offense to make things interesting.
After Jackson County took a 4-0 lead in the fifth, the Purple Hurricanes answered with two runs that inning. The Panthers — playing as the visiting team — picked up two important insurance runs in the top of the sixth, setting up the eventful seventh inning. Cartersville scored two runs to cut the lead to 6-4 and kept the bases loaded with just one out. But Kendrix, working in relief, came in and forced a grounder back to the mound to cut down the lead runner for the second out. She then tagged out a runner trying to advance home on a wild pitch to end the game.
“(Catcher) Jordan (Evans) did a great job getting back to the back stop and getting the ball,” Laird said. “Shelton did a great job of putting the tag on. Close play. So it was a great job for everybody.”
Jessica Baker, who earned the win, started and pitched six and one-third innings before giving way to Kendrix, who has stepped into the team’s closer role.
“Jessica did a great job,” Laird said. “Her and Peyton (Sorrells) have been working their tails off. They have really been working and doing whatever we asked. Like I told them, there’s nothing wrong. It’s just that we wanted to try to chance the momentum.”
Kendrix drove home two runs to lead Jackson County offensively. Madi Pecht, Peyton Sorrells, Victoria Fontana and Kristin Anderson also had RBIs.
Laird said her team’s offense got better as the doubleheader went on.
“The first game, we seemed to struggle just a little bit at the beginning — getting our timing down and putting hits in,” Laird said.
But by the second game, Jackson County’s lineup grew accustomed to Cartersville starter Annalyn Yantis, who threw both games.
“They pretty much had her timing down and we were ready,” Laird said. “These girls were extremely focused when they came into (last Wednesday).”
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