COLUMBUS, Ga. --- The Thomson High Lady Bulldogs are on Cloud Nine after finishing fourth in the Georgia High School Association Class AAA softball championship series here last week.
"This team has nothing in the world to be ashamed about," remarked Thomson head coach Jason Osborn after his team's 2-0 loss to Allatoona at South Commons Softball Complex last Friday night.
Against Allatoona, coach Osborn encouraged his team throughout the contest.
"Play tough out there, let's go," he told his players after two innings of a scoreless game.
Coach Osborn, now who has just led his team to their second straight appearance in the Elite Eight Championship Series, told his players as they were preparing to bat in the third that they needed to make something happen.
"Swing that bat aggressively," coach Osborn said.
As it turned out, Allatoona pitcher Caitlin O'Shea did a number on Thomson batters. She held the Lady Bulldogs to just two hits in the seven inning game. The hits were delivered by Hannah Wilson, a single in the third and Shannon Chalker -- a single in the seventh.
The Lady Buccaneers from Acwort, Ga., meanwhile, struck for their two runs in the top of the fifth inning off Thomson junior pitcher Brooke Herkel. She was able to retire the first two batters she faced.
Trouble later brewed, as O'Shea, a senior, reached on a two-base throwing miscue by Thomson third baseman Jadah Lawson. Stephanie Watts was credited with an infield single later. As Herkel went to make a play on the ball, she went down on one knee and attempted to throw the runner out at third base. The ball was thrown high over the head of Wilson, the shortstop who had come over to cover on the play for Lawson. It allowed pinch runner Lauren Fitch to score. Watts later scored on a RBI single by Kara Chambers.
With their backs against the wall, facing elimination from the tournament and with two outs, Thomson attempted a valiant comeback in the bottom of the last inning.
Chalker singled and moved to second base when Brea Boutwell reached on an error by Allatoona second baseman Kaitlin Chumley. Wilson later loaded the bases on a miscue by first baseman Tressa Watson. The threat was halted when Herkel followed and popped out for the third out.
It ended not only the game, but the Thomson season, too.
White County, which handed the Lady Bulldogs their first loss of the double-elimination championship series last Thursday night, went on to win the state championship. They defeated the West Laurens Lady Raiders to claim the title. Thomson suffered one of their worst losses of the season when they tangled with White County. The final score was 16-1.
Thomson's lone run in that game came on a solo homer belted over the right center field fence by senior shortstop Hannah Wilson, a major college prospect.
"We just got beat by a team that was real hot," said coach Osborn. "Sometimes you run into a team that's real hot and they were real hot when we played them."
In the first game that Thomson played last Thursday -- the opening day of the championship series in all five classifications -- the Lady Bulldogs defeated Walnut Grove 4-0.
The win avenged a 7-5 loss that Thomson suffered to Walnut Grove earlier this season.
Walnut Grove head coach Taylor Brooks, a graduate of Harlem High School where he was a prep star baseball player, said prior to the game that one of the key's to his team having a chance of winning was keeping Wilson off the base path.
"We've also got play sound defense and hit the ball," said coach Brooks, who is heading an up and rising softball program in only the second year of the school's existence.
Thomson pitcher Brooke Herkel made sure that didn't happen.
Thomson left fielder Khedeja Fanning got her team on the scoreboard in the top of the second inning when she hit belted her first prep career homerun over the left field fence. The long ball came after two outs.
Walnut Grove pitcher Kara Patterson gave up two more runs to the Lady Bulldogs in the top of the fourth and another one in the fifth.
In the fourth, Thomson catcher Haley Poss hit a one-out single. Poss was then lifted for courtesy runner Christian Marsh.
After Sharlette Farmer struck out, senior first baseman Caitlin Carpenter smashed a RBI double down the right field line that scored Marsh. Carpenter eventually scored on a RBI single by Fanning -- her second RBI of the game.
Thomson went up 4-0 with an insurance run in the top of the fifth inning.
Wilson hit a one-out infield single and later stole both second and third bases. She raced home on a RBI single by Herkel, who followed.
Walnut Grove threatened to score in the bottom of the second, but an alert, solid infield of Thomson players prevented such from occurring. A runner was caught between third base and home plate.
Herkel calmly went over to the third base line, tagged out the lead runner and got the runner coming into third base for what proved a big double-play.
Earlier last Friday afternoon, Thomson played Ringgold in the R.G. Jones Field, a large stadium where softball was played during the 1996 Atlanta Olympic Games.
The Lady Bulldogs blanked the Ringgold 8-0 -- marking the second time in as many days that they were able to hold a state playoff team scoreless.
The Lady Bulldogs wasted no time getting some runs under their belts. They scored two runs in the bottom of the first inning; two more in the third and four more in the fourth.
The game ended two innings earlier due to the run limit.
Thomson's first two runs were scored by Wilson and Stevens. The only hit of the inning came from Farmer -- a bloop RBI single that fell just out of reach of Ringgold second baseman Allie Baker.
Jadah Lawson later hit her first-ever homerun in the state playoffs. The solo homer was hit deep over the left field fence. It gave Thomson a 3-0 lead.
Haley Poss later drew a walk before being lifted on the base path by Marsh, who later scored on a passed ball.
In the fourth, the Lady Bulldogs slammed the door on Ringgold, as they struck for four more runs on three hits. Those scoring runs included: Wilson, Stevens, Chalker and Boutwell.
The hits -- all singles -- came from Wilson, Herkel and Farmer, who had two hits and drove in a pair of runs.