Columbus Day arrives just once a year for most of the country, but the Lakeside and Greenbrier high school softball teams celebrated Columbus Day twice this October.
The Columbia County fastpitch squads advanced through the Class AAAA South Sectional playoffs last week at Diamond Lakes Regional Park, which earned Greenbrier and Lakeside trips to Columbus, Ga., for the state finals.
With the Lady Panthers and Lady Wolfpack in the Elite Eight, Columbia County has twice the chance to capture a first-ever state championship in softball.
The Class AAAA finals begin Thursday, and the double-elimination event continues through Saturday. The Lady Pack opens play against Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe, and the Lady Panthers start with Ringgold.
Greenbrier is making its fourth straight appearance in the Elite Eight, while Lakeside is going back to Columbus for the first time since 1998.
Greenbrier's Kristan Glover makes the pitch against Northgate during softball action Saturday afternoon at Diamond Lakes Softball Complex.
Photo by Michael Holahan
"It's tremendous, because none of these girls have ever been there," Lakeside coach Jay Matthews said. "From here on out, it's icing on the cake."
Greenbrier coach Garrett Black wants to have his cake and eat it too.
"We know what we want to do. We want to win a state championship," Black said.
Lakeside opened the sectionals last Friday by beating Ware County 11-3. Andria Batchelor pitched a complete game for the Lady Panthers, and Lakeside's offense provided plenty of support. Jamie Lake was 4-for-5, Hillary Hall had three hits, while Batchelor, Ansley Evans and Sam Wannamaker all had three hits apiece.
The hits kept coming in game two, as Lakeside spanked Woodward Academy 10-0. Lakeside pitcher Jori McMurtey allowed just two hits during the shutout win.
Things got tense for Lakeside on Saturday. Hardaway whipped the Lady Panthers 8-1, which forced an elimination game between Lakeside and Harris County.
After eight scoreless innings, the game was decided in the bottom of the ninth, when Hall drove in Lake to lift Lakeside to a 1-0 win. McMurtrey pitched all nine innings to help seal the berth in the state finals.
Greenbrier, meanwhile, entered the sectionals as the top-ranked Class AAAA team in the state, but the Lady Pack had to work hard to punch their ticket to Columbus.
The Lady Pack cruised through Friday's play, posting shutouts over Sandy Creek (4-0) and Harris County (7-0), dropped a 3-2 game to Northgate on Saturday, and then faced Chapel Hill in a do-or-die contest in the double-elimination tournament.
Greenbrier responded with an error-free performance to knock off Chapel Hill 6-2. Pitcher Kristan Glover went the distance for the Lady Pack, and she also contributed a pair of hits at the plate. Amanda Glover chipped in with a 2-for-3 outing.
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