DUBLIN, Ga. -- The trip to Southern Pines Regional Park in Dublin over the weekend turned out to be most fruitful for the Briarwood Academy Lady Buccaneers on Monday, as they defeated a pair of teams to advance to the GISA Class A girls' softball state championship series.
The title series, which involves the best two-of-three game series, will pit Briarwood Academy going up against Oak Mountain for the state title. The series will begin at the same regional park in Dublin where the Final Four tournament was held on Monday. Game No. 1 will start at 12 p.m. this Saturday. Game No. 2 will follow a few minutes later, while Game No. 3, if needed, would be played a short time after Game No. 2.
"This is a great accomplishment for our softball program," said a jubilant Briarwood Academy head coach Hannah DeMore in a telephone interview on Monday night. "We played so good. I'm very proud of these girls. I'm super proud of them."
In the first game of the Final Four, the Lady Buccaneers walloped Oak Mountain 16-0 behind a brilliant pitching performance by junior pitcher Maegan Bentley.
"She pitched a perfect game," said coach DeMore, whose team finished runners-up in the state a year ago. "She got them three-up, three-down every inning. She really proved that she wanted to win the game. She was tremendous."
Coach DeMore said her Lady Buccaneers got great pitching, hit the ball well and played great defense -- all key ingredients to them having won the game.
Things were much different in the second game when they played Thomas Jefferson Academy's Lady Jaguars -- Briarwood Academy's biggest rivals from Louisville.
Despite having lost to Thomas Jefferson during the recent region championship game, the Lady Buccaneers seemed bent, bound and determined not to allow the Lady Jaguars to get the best of them again.
There was a sense that the Lady Buccaneers wanted that game badly.
Coach DeMore agreed.
"We played like we really wanted it," said coach DeMore, noting her players demonstrated that when they came from behind earlier in the game.
The Lady Buccaneers went on to post a 7-4 win and thus advance into the championship series this Saturday.
"I can't believe that we're playing for a state championship softball title again," said coach DeMore. "It's great, just great."
Coach DeMore, who has been helped this season by assistant coaches Butch Stadler and Kelly Guy, said she is hopeful her team can bring home what would be the school's first-ever state championship in softball.
"That would be great; I mean really great," said coach DeMore.
In the game against Thomas Jefferson, Briarwood sophomore pitcher Megan Smith worked until midway of the fourth inning, when she was replaced by Maegan Bentley, the winning pitcher in the first game on Monday.
"Megan Smith did a fine job for us on the mound," said coach DeMore. "She pitched great. We decided to go with Maegan Bentley because several of the Thomas Jefferson hitters were starting to catch up to Megan's pitches."
Bentley, who has been sick the last three days, pitched in relief the rest of the game.
"She was amazing, pitching all those innings and playing sick at the same time," said coach DeMore. "She really helped us get to this point in our season."
Bentley started out the season, playing pitcher at Thomson High School. A few weeks ago, she decided to transfer to Briarwood Academy and immediately became one of the team's best pitchers.
Briarwood leftfielder MacKenzie Simpkins made a key defensive play in the game that ended a big threat by Thomas Jefferson Academy.
"She made a leaping catch of a fly ball that was hit her way very hard," said coach DeMore. "It was one of the best defensive plays that we turned all day."