The LCHS varsity softball team’s tremendous 2019 season came to an end with two straight losses at the GHSA Class AAA State Softball Championship tournament in Columbus last week.
Despite dropping their first round game versus defending State Champions the Franklin Lady Lions before being eliminated from the tournament with a loss to Ringgold, LCHS head softball coach Joseph Jones believes that the 2019 season was one that his coaching staff and his players will not soon forget.
“Coaching this team this year has been a wonderful experience for our staff,” said Jones. “They have made some lifelong memories for me, as their coach, and I hope being a part of this program has done the same for them.”
The Lady Indians punched their ticket to the Elite Eight of Class AAA by defeating Crisp County in the Sweet 16 round of the GHSA State Softball Playoffs, giving them the opportunity to play for a State Championship title in Columbus.
The Lady Indians knew that the road to a State Championship would be a tough task when Lumpkin was matched up with last year’s defending State Champion Franklin County in the first round of the State tournament on Thursday, Oct. 24.
“We’ve just got to play our game and limit mistakes,” Jones said before the Lady Indians’ game against the Lady Lions. “At this stage, mistakes could be the difference for either team.”
The Lady Indians got off to a terrific start when Natalie Robinson smashed a RBI single to right field in the top of the first inning, giving Lumpkin an early 1-0 advantage.
After a strikeout by Brighton Harder to start the inning, Evee Dornhecker connected for a single to left to give the Lady Indians their first baserunner of the game. Lauren English followed with a bloop single that fell in-between the Lady Lions’ shortstop and left fielder.
That set the stage for Robinson to drive in the game’s first run with a pitch blistered to right.
The Lady Indians would score one more run in the inning off a wild pitch to begin the contest with a 2-0 lead. Unfortunately for Lumpkin, the two first inning runs would prove to be the only offensive production the Lady Indians would get from their lineup in the game.
In the bottom half of the inning, Robinson took to the mound for Lumpkin and proceeded to set the Lady Lions down in order for a 1-2-3 first inning.
Robinson ran into a bit of trouble in the bottom of the second inning and gave up a run on a wild pitch with a runner standing at third and two outs. The senior pitcher was able to get out of the jam without further damage when she struck out the next Franklin batter.
The score remained 2-1 in favor of Lumpkin until the bottom of the fourth when the Lady Lions crushed a two-run home run over the wall in left center to take their first lead of the ballgame at 3-2.
Franklin’s momentum built in the bottom of the fifth inning, resulting in a seven-run inning that allowed the Lady Lions to defeat Lumpkin 10-2 in a run-rule shortened game.
The Lady Lions began the inning with an infield single and a walk to put runners at first and second. The next Franklin batter went to lay down a sacrifice bunt, but the throw to first by English, who ran from third to field the play, was off the mark. The defensive miscue allowed Franklin to take a 4-2 advantage with runners at second and third. The next Lady Lion belted a two-run double, extending Franklin’s lead to 6-2. After that the wheels fell off for the Lady Indians as Franklin connected for a RBI single, a two-run home run and two more singles before the winning run scored on a wild pitch from Robinson.
The final result was a 10-2 loss for Lumpkin which sent the Lady Indians to the consolation bracket where they would have to fight their way back in order to play in the championship game.
The Lady Indians attempted to do just that when the faced off with Ringgold on Friday, Oct. 25.
Lumpkin starting pitcher English got a rude introduction to the Ringgold lineup, as the Lady Tigers plated five runs in the bottom of the first inning to take an early 5-0 lead.
The mistakes that Jones hoped to limit coming into the tournament came back to haunt the Lady Indians versus Ringgold, as the Lady Tigers benefitted from a run off back-to-back errors by the Lumpkin defense in the bottom of the second inning.
The Lady Tigers added another two runs to the scoreboard in the bottom of the third when Amber Gainer launched a two-run shot over the fence in center, upping Ringgold’s lead to 8-0.
Ringgold struck for two more runs in the bottom of the fourth off a solo home run and a RBI single.
Trailing 10-0, the Lady Indians finally scored a run in the top of the fifth with a RBI single to break up the shutout bid by the Lady Tigers, but the game ended shortly afterward under the run-rule.
The 10-1 loss eliminated the Lady Indians from the State Championship tournament and ended Lumpkin’s 2019 season.
Despite the Lady Indians’ appearance at the tournament no going the way he or his team had hoped, Jones was extremely proud of what his players accomplished this season.
“I, along with the entire coaching staff, are very proud of this group of girls,” Jones said. “They worked very hard this year and it was very enjoyable for the coaches to be a part of.”
Jones credited the leadership of his senior players for their part in the team’s success this season and knows that they will be missed next season.
“This senior group has been amazing to coach,” Jones said. “They will definitely be missed in this program, but will always be a huge part of the success of the program in the future. They have had a great four years in our program and I am very proud of them.”
Despite losing the talents of seniors Harder, Robinson, Dornhecker, Anna Kate Wilson and Hannah Pulley, Jones believes that the younger players on the team will be able to step up when the 2020 season begins.
“I am very excited about the future of our program, not only for the players that have experienced playing time this year,” Jones said. “We have many players who were a part of our JV team this year who have a great opportunity awaiting them going into next fall.
The Lady Indians finished the 2019 season with a 20-14 overall record and a 10-2 region record.