Surviving softball teams can see Columbus
by Carlton D. White
October 19, 2011 12:43 AM | 1577 views | 0 0 comments | 6 6 recommendations | email to a friend | print
With another series win against Blessed Trinity, Sara Bennetts and her River Ridge teammates will be bound for Columbus in just their second year of varsity play.
<Br>Tribune photo by Jon-Michael Sullivan
With another series win against Blessed Trinity, Sara Bennetts and her River Ridge teammates will be bound for Columbus in just their second year of varsity play.
Tribune photo by Jon-Michael Sullivan
River Ridge, Etowah and Creekview were the lone survivors following the first round of the state softball playoffs last week.

Sequoyah fell in three games to Loganville, while Cherokee and Woodstock were swept by North Forsyth and Milton, respectively.

Postseason play will continue today with Region 7AA champion River Ridge (20-10) hosting Region 5AA runner-up Blessed Trinity (23-13), Region 5AAAAA runner-up Etowah (24-9) traveling to Region 7AAAAA champion Collins Hill (23-7) and 7AAAA runner-up Creekview (20-12) going on the road to Region 5AAAA champion Paulding County (22-8).

Each matchup will be a best-of-three series. River Ridge and Etowah will each play doubleheaders today beginning at 5 p.m., with Creekview starting its twinbill 15 minutes later. If necessary, the decisive third games would be played Thursday.

A lot is at stake for the winners of these series, who will advance to next week’s state finals in Columbus.

River Ridge, which has won seven of its last eight — including a first-round sweep of North Oconee — is into the second round in its first state playoff appearance. A starting lineup that includes five freshmen will go up against a Blessed Trinity team comprised of four seniors, four juniors and a sophomore among its starting nine.

Blessed Trinity, a Catholic high school in Roswell located about 10 miles southeast of River Ridge, won the Class AAA state championship in 2007 and has reached the state finals four times in the last six years, missing out the last two seasons. The Lady Titans have also won seven of their last nine games.

“We’ve been focusing at practice trying to get better and learning about what Blessed Trinity does,” River Ridge coach Scott Bradley said. “Their two leadoff hitters have 20-plus stolen bases this season, so we’ve worked on reacting to slap hitting and bunting and making sure we play those appropriately.

“We’re playing well enough to win, but for our kids to be overconfident would be a huge mistake. Some of our kids play softball with the girls at Blessed Trinity, so a lot of them know each other and what they’re capable of. They’re a good team, and they’ll present a challenge.”

Etowah, which has won eight of its last 11, is two wins away from its first state finals appearance in team history. The Lady Eagles swept Alpharetta 3-0 and 13-4 in the first round, but they will likely face a tougher matchup against two-time defending state champion Collins Hill, which has won six of its last seven.

Creekview is hoping to reach the state finals for the third consecutive season with a series win over Paulding County. The Lady Grizzlies have won nine of their last 12, including a playoff first-round sweep of Habersham Central, 4-0 and 6-2.

Creekview’s previous two trips to Columbus were secured after second-round victories at home. This time, however, the Lady Grizzlies will have to win in Dallas in order to book a return to the finals.

“When you’re home, you have an advantage with the crowd, and you know how your field plays,” Creekview coach Chance Cain said. “Our girls will be prepared, so I don’t think playing on the road will be a big deal to them. They play travel ball and things like that, so they’re used to it.

“We have a very good following at Creekview, so we hope to pack our side with fans as well and play hard.”

Creekview also has experience on its side. Paulding County is on a roll, having won 13 of its last 14 games, but the Lady Patriots are in the state playoffs for the first time since 2007.

“Experience is an intangible that’s in our favor, but Paulding County is playing well and hasn’t lost a game for a while,” Cain said. “We’ve been successful, and we’re building a tradition, so we have high expectations of ourselves. But you still have to play the game.”
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