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Lady Tigers softball season ends with first-round elimination
Lady Tigers Softball
Senior Kaylee Hamilton catches the ball on the run in the first round of the region 7-AAA tournament on Sept. 28 at Jack Waldrip Field. - photo by Bob Christian

The Dawson County varsity softball team entered the first round of the region 7-AAA tournament on Sept. 28 with a ton of enthusiasm and energy. Having secured fourth place in the region with a solid win over the Fannin County Rebels earlier in the week, the Lady Tigers were matched up against the Greater Atlanta Christian Spartans for a double-header in front of their home-field crowd.

With a regular season record of 1 – 1 against the Spartans, each team having won at home, head coach Jimmy Pruett recognized the challenge ahead of the Lady Tigers but was mindful of the advantage gained by playing in the familiar confines of Jack Waldrip field.

“We would rather play here. We tend to play better here, but we wouldn’t prepare any differently whether we were here or there,” Pruett said. “They are who they are, and we are who we are. Just have to go out and do it.”

Starting pitcher, freshman Reese Moore, expressed a cool confidence before taking the mound in what was arguably the most important game of her young career.

“I’m not nervous, but I know it is a big game,” Moore said. “We can definitely beat them.”

Despite her assurances, some nerves were apparent in the first inning as Moore walked the lead-off batter and the second Spartan reached first after being hit by a pitch. From there, Moore settled down and pitched her way out of the early trouble, retiring the next three batters to end the inning with two runners stranded on the bases.

“That’s a good start,” assistant coach Logan Allen said. “It’s not often you see the first two hitters get on base and then avoid trouble from the three through five spots.”

Unfortunately for the Lady Tigers, that moment turned out to be the high point of the game as the normally hard-hitting offense ran into a buzz saw in the form of GAC’s ace pitcher Faith Vento. Averaging two strike outs an inning Vento clamped down on the Dawson hitters, giving up one hit and three walks versus 10 strike outs in the five-inning shut-out.

The Spartan’s offense strung together a series of deep singles in the top of the second inning to take an early six run lead and never looked back, adding runs in the third and fourth innings to force an early end to the game via the mercy rule.

Moore recorded the loss for the Lady Tigers bringing her season record to a final tally of 7 wins to 6 losses. Junior Bella Henson picked up the only hit of the day for Dawson County, a double in the bottom of the fourth inning.

“We picked a bad time to go into a hitting slump,” Pruett said. “We just could not string together as many hits as we needed.”

Dawson County found themselves down early in game two of the double-header after the Spartans put together another series of singles to push three runs across the plate in their first turn at bat.

Sophomore Olivia Martinez took to the mound for the Lady Tigers and, combined with a staunch defensive effort from the Dawson infield, kept the game close over the next three innings. GAC added two more runs in the bottom of the fifth to extend their lead. Vento did the rest as she continued to stymie the Dawson County line-up, racking up another nine strike outs.

Five different Lady Tigers each recorded a hit in the game, all singles, and only once did they come in the same inning. Martinez took the loss for Dawson County giving up five runs on nine hits with two strike outs.

The back-to-back losses eliminated the Lady Tigers from the region 7-AAA tournament and marked the end of the 2019 season. The team finished the year with a 6 – 6 regional record and a 9 – 11 overall record.

“This team has shown tremendous growth since the beginning of our June workouts. The defense really improved as the season went on,” Pruett said. “The coaching staff is very proud and pleased with this young team. The future of the program is looking good.”