The Briarwood Academy Lady Buccaneers will be playing in the Final Four of the GISA Girls' Class A State Playoffs this Saturday in Milledgeville.
The reason: They swept the visiting Fullington Academy Lady Trojans in a doubleheader played at Briarwood on Tuesday, a day after the two teams were scheduled to play but couldn't becasue of heavy rain. The Lady Buccaneers defeated Fullington 9-2 in Game No. 1 and 9-1 in Game No. 2.
Briarwood Academy will now travel to Milledgeville this Saturday in quest of the school's first state softball championship. Through the years, Briarwood has claimed several runner-up trophies, but never a state crown.
It was not immediately known who Briarwood would be playing on Saturday. Please go to www.mcduffiemirror.com for updates.
"It feels great to be going back to the Final Four for the second straight year," said Briarwood Academy head coach Hannah Demore. "I think it's even a little more exciting this year because of our seniors. They are go-getters. They really came through for us in this series. I'm very proud of our whole team."
She praised senior pitcher Gerry Hall, who went the distance in both games.
"Gerry pitched a wonderful two games," coach Demore said.
Hall fired a one-hitter in Game 1 and allowed just three hits in Game 2.
The Lady Buccaneers also played both games with several sick players. Three of them, first baseman Taylor Echols, center fielder Lizzie Keen and sophomore shortstop Kris Dawson, played both games sick. One of the team's star players this season, third baseman Maria Celeste Johnson, however, was diagnosed with the flu and wasn't able to play.
Rather than missing the playoffs entirely, Johnson did the next best thing. She watched the games, bundled up in a chair, because of periods of chills, from left center field.
Johnson called what her teammates accomplished in the first-round of the state playoffs as "awesome."
She wasn't the only player excited. Several of her teammates were, too. One of them, in fact, was a junior varsity player, Copeland Price, who was brought up to play third base for both games in the absence of Johnson.
"I went to her (Copeland) earlier today (Tuesday) and asked her could she play third base for us," recalled coach Demore. "She replied, 'Yes ma'am I can.'"
And play she did.
The 14-year-old eighth-grader made a number of big defensive plays in both games and reached base seven times, collected two hits and scored four times.
Price said she loved getting a chance to play on the varsity team.
"She really played well for us," said coach Demore.
Another player feeling great about the season is Echols, whose bat was silenced in the first game, but who delivered in a powerful way in the second game.
"It feels great to reach the Final Four again," said Echols. "Hopefully, we can win state. We've kind of had a rocky season, so it would be awesome to win a state championship.
In Game 1, the Lady Buccaneers managed to get only four hits, but found ways to manufacture runs thanks to the aid of eight walks off Fullington sophomore pitcher Brittany Bailey, who like Hall, pitched both games.
The Lady Bucs proved patience pays off with the bat. From the eight walks they received, five of their runs were produced.
The second game was different as their bats came alive. They collected 14 hits -- six of them in the seventh inning when Briarwood erupted for six runs while batting around.