Lumpkin softball’s dramatic sweep of Dawson advances them in region playoffs

WALK OFF WINNERS

The Lady Indians varsity softball team finished its regular season and jumped right into the first round of the Region 7-AAA Softball Playoffs with much success last week.

It was a week filled with triumph, heartbreak, a three way tie and a dramatic late-inning, come-from-behind walk off victory to clinch a best-of-three series versus neighboring conference rival Dawson County to advance to the second round of the conference playoffs.

The week started with an away non-conference game versus Madison County on Monday, Sept. 25.

The Lady Indians struggled to get anything going at the plate versus the Madison County pitcher while Madison’s offensive lineup smashed the cover off the ball.

The end result was a 9-0 loss for Lumpkin.

Looking to erase the defeat to Madison, the Lady Indians continued their week with a home game versus West Hall.

The roles were reversed from the Madison County game, as the Lady Indians crushed at the plate and silenced the West Hall lineup on their way to a decisive 12-0 victory.

With the Region 7-AAA standings tightening, the Lady Indians’ final regular season game versus neighboring region rival Dawson County held region playoffs seeding implications. If Lumpkin won the game, they would earn the two seed. If Lumpkin lost the game, there would be a three-way tie for third and a bevy of tiebreakers would come into play.

So, when the Lady Indians traveled to Dawson County to take on the Lady Tigers on Thursday, Sept. 28, there was much at stake for both clubs.

The Lady Tigers struck first in the contest, taking a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the first. Dawson was able to score the run off a sacrifice fly to center field off of Lumpkin starting  pitcher Natalie Robinson.

The Lady Indians quickly turned the tables in the top of the second inning when they plated two runs to take a 2-1 advantage. After Misty Goodman reached on an error by the Lady Tigers’ third baseman and Ansley Jarrard singled to centerfield and advanced to second on a throw to third, Raven Chester delivered a rocket shot down the first base line to score both Goodman and Jarrard. Chester’s timely hit gave the Lady Indians a 2-1 advantage.

A bunt single and an error by Robinson gave Dawson runners on the corners in the bottom of the third which led to a RBI single through the left side of the infield, tying the game at 2-2. 

The two starting pitchers battled it out for the next three innings with neither giving up the go-ahead run.

However, in the bottom of the seventh Robinson allowed a lead-off double, a sacrifice bunt and a walk to give the Lady Tigers runners on the corners with one out. The next batter hit the ball far enough into centerfield to score a walk-off RBI sacrifice fly which gave Dawson a 3-2 victory.

“It was a good ballgame,” said LCHS head softball coach Joseph Jones. “Our focus was to go in and go the other way. When we did that we did well.”

The loss caused a three-way tie for third place in the Region 7-AAA standings. After tiebreakers, Lumpkin earned a fifth seed in the region playoffs.

Ironically, Lumpkin’s first test on the path to the Region 7-AAA Championship title would be Dawson County on Saturday, Sept. 30, at Dawson County High School.

After the heartbreaking one-run loss to end the Lady Indians’ 2017 regular season, the same two squads stepped back in-between the lines for a doubleheader in a best-of-three series two days later.

“It should be a good matchup,” Jones said before the game. “It’ll definitely be a fun atmosphere.”

The Lady Indians, led by a stellar performance on the mound by Robinson, cruised to a 5-1 victory in the first game of the doubleheader.

Lumpkin’s offense got things started early in the game when third baseman Izzy Kinard belted a RBI single to right field to score Brighton Harder, who had led the inning off with a single to centerfield, from third. Kinard’s run-scoring single gave the Lady Indians a 1-0 lead.

Robinson, displaying the kind of stuff that had made her so successful during the regular season, made short work of the Lady Tigers in the bottom of the first to maintain Lumpkin’s 1-0 advantage.

The Lady Indians doubled their lead in the top of the second off a RBI single to right field from the bat of Lita Sills. Sills’ hit upped Lumpkin’s lead to 2-0.

Lumpkin struck again in the top of the fourth. Chester got a hold of a pitch and launched it into right field to score Goodman from third to extend Lumpkin’s lead to 3-0. Chester advanced to second on the throw to the plate, giving the Lady Indians runners on second and third. Those runners weren’t on the bases long, however, as Sills blasted a two-run double to right field for her third RBI of the game. Sills’ double gave Lumpkin a 5-0 advantage.

The score remained the same as Robinson and the Lumpkin defense kept dealing scoreless innings to the Lady Tigers until the final inning.

Trialing 5-0 and down to their final three outs, the Lady Tigers were finally able to muster a run off of Robinson. The Lady Tigers benefitted from an infield single, a single down the left field line and a walk to load the bases with two outs in the bottom of the seventh. With the bases loaded, a wild pitch by Robinson allowed Dawson to score its first run of the game. It would be the only run Robinson would give up in her seven innings of work as she induced a fly out to center for the final inning of the game.

Robinson gave up one run off four hits in her seven innings, helping the Lady Indians earn a 5-1 game one victory.

With the chance to sweep the Lady Tigers out of the Region 7-AAA Playoffs, the Lady Indians tried to duplicate what they had done in game one. However, Dawson had other plans in mind.

The Lady Tigers jumped out to a commanding 6-0 lead by the fifth inning. Dawson plated two runs in the top of the first, a run in the top of the fourth and three runs in the top of the fifth. Robinson started the game on the mound for Lumpkin, but was replaced by Chester in the fifth after allowing two singles and a walk to load the bases.

Chester kept the damage to a minimum.

In the bottom of the fifth, Jarrard started the Lady Indians’ half of the inning off with a triple to right field. Jarrard was quickly knocked in by Chester to cut the Dawson lead to 6-1. Later in the inning, Harder singled to right and stole second to give the Lady Indians a runner in scoring position. Victoria Mounce supplied a clutch RBI single to center to further cut into Dawson’s lead. Mounce’s RBI lessened the Lady Tigers’ lead to 6-2.

The Lady Tigers got one of those runs back in the top of the sixth with a RBI fielder’s choice, but Lumpkin was able to get out of the inning  without further damage thanks in large part to a phenomenal double play turned by Lady Indian shortstop Goodman. Goodman cleanly fielded a grounder and fired a strike to first base to get the first out. First baseman Kyla Day finished the double play by throwing the ball to the plate. Day’s throw was just in time to get the Lady Tiger runner out and ended the Dawson rally.

In the bottom of the sixth, the Lady Indians whittled the Dawson lead to 7-5 with patience and good contact. Day led off the inning with a grounder to second that the Dawson infielder couldn’t handle, putting the leaf-off winner on. Goodman followed with a single up the middle to give the Lady Indians runners at first and second. A wild pitch moved the runners to second and third with no outs for Chambers. Chambers remained patient at the plate and waited on her pitch. When her pitch came, Chambers blasted it through the left side of the infield to score both Lumpkin runners. Chambers advanced to second on the throw home and was moved to third off a sacrifice bunt by Jarrard. With one out and Chambers at third, Chester got just enough distance on a fly ball to right field to score Chmabers and cut the Dawson advantage to 7-5.

Chester continued to look good from the mound for Lumpkin in the top of the seventh, tossing a scoreless inning.

Down to their final three outs, the Lady Indians’ lineup came through in the clutch. 

Harder started off the inning trying to use her speed to get a bunt single. However, the throw to first barely beat out Harder and the Lady Indians were down to their final two outs. The next batter, Mounce, singled up the middle and was promptly batted in by a RBI double off the bat of Kinard. Trailing by a single run, Lumpkin benefitted from a Dawson error to move the tying run to third base. With runners on the corners, Goodman tied the game at 7-7 with a RBI single to right field. The epic come-from-behind rally was capped when Chambers belted a hard hit single to right which scored the runner from second for a walk-off winner.

“I told them that we’ve won games late before,” Jones said after the game. “They just kept grinding away. It was just balls up the middle which we practiced all week. I’m just proud of them and their effort. We got hits from every spot in the lineup. Both Robinson and Chester pitched great and kept us in both games. It was a lot of fun today. Now we have to gear up for East Hall on Wednesday.” 

With a current overall record of 12-14, the Lady Indians will look to continue their path towards a Region 7-AAA Championship when they travel to East Hall today, Oct. 4, for a doubleheader in a best-or-three series with the Lady Vikings. First pitch for game one is scheduled at 11 a.m.

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