DUBLIN, Ga. --- The Lady Bulldogs of Thomson High School earned a berth in the Class AAA Girls' Softball Playoffs for the first time in school history.
But it wasn't easy. And it didn't come without a price.
The team began first-round action against Shaw of Columbus on Tuesday. It marked the first time ever that Thomson has hosted a softball state playoff series. Because of early press deadlines, stories about the best-of-three series against Shaw will be posted online. Please go to www.mcduffiemirror.com for complete coverage and photos of first-round action on Wednesday. A third game was slated to be played on Wednesday, if necessary.
During the Region 3-AAA playoffs which were played at Southern Pines Regional Park in Dublin last Tuesday and Thursday, the Lady Bulldogs finished runners-up behind the West Laurens Lady Raiders. Thomson did battle against West Laurens last Thursday before the region championship was claimed by the Lady Raiders for the second time in as many years.
In the first of three games played last Thursday, Thomson lost a 4-3 heartbreaker to West Laurens. The Lady Bulldogs then turned around to play for second seed against the Richmond Hill Lady Wildcats. Thomson managed to pull out that game 2-1 in a 10-inning affair. Later that night, Thomson was beaten 8-3 for the region championship by West Laurens.
Following that third and decisive game, Thomson head coach Jason Osborn, along with assistant coaches Bennie Hester and Katie Sutherland accepted his team's second place region trophy and carried it back to his team.
"Playing three games in a row took a lot of out of us," Coach Osborn said. "After the loss to West Laurens in that first game, we just could never rebound. When your team hoes to bat and strikes out 34 times and commit 13 errors in three games, you don't give yourselves a chance to win. It's what we didn't do that's disappointing."
In the first game against West Laurens, Thomson got off to a 1-0 lead after a half inning of play. Junior shortstop Hannah Wilson drilled a solo homerun over the right center field fence. Earlier, West Laurens pitcher Abi Leroy had no problems, settled down and retired second baseman Brooke Herkel and third baseman Jada Lawson on strikeouts, just like she did leadoff senior centerfielder Heather Shivers.
The bottom of the first saw West Laurens strike for a pair of runs to take a 2-1 lead. The Lady Raiders sent seven batters to the plate -- the only hit coming off the bat of catcher Danielle Knight -- a two-run single to right field.
Thomson came right back with two more runs in the top of the fourth to reclaim the lead 3-2.
After Leroy fanned Lawson and senior catcher Hannah Pereda, first baseman Caitlin Carpenter walked and later moved to second base on a single by senior second baseman Chelsea Reeves. Senior right fielder followed, reaching on a throwing miscue, which allowed Brea Boutwell and Reeves to score and thus gave Thomson the lead again.
Thomson continued to lead by the one-run margin until the bottom of the seventh. It was then that Brooke Herkel got into trouble as the pitcher for the Lady Bulldogs. She walked three of four batters she faced -- the first two runners eventually scoring on pass balls, including the winning run.
The Lady Bulldogs only had three hits in that game -- the third one, a single, by Shivers in the top of the fifth.
In the game against Richmond Hill, Thomson trailed Richmond Hill 1-0 going into the sixth inning. The bottom of that frame saw the Lady Bulldogs knot the game at 1-1 with a leadoff double by Shivers. Miranda Barker, a courtesy runner, was driven home by Lawson, who smashed a RBI double into up the middle.
Ironically, it was Barker who scored the winning run in the bottom of the 10th inning on her fourth hit of the game.
Maegan Bentley was the winning pitcher.
The third game, which was played against West Laurens, again didn't turn out like Thomson had planned. They ended up losing 8-3.
Thomson was limited to just six hits in that game. Those hits came from Shivers, a single and a pair of doubles; Seals, a single; Wilson, a single; and Haley Poss, a single.
Bentley was the losing pitcher in that game. She was relieved by Herkel in the bottom of the fifth with the Lady Raiders up 4-2. West Laurens tallied four more runs in the sixth to put the game out of reach.