Saturday's Region 3-AAAA softball tournament at Patriots Park was set up to determine which four teams would advance to the Class AAAA state sectionals.
It also reaffirmed what most softball coaches in the state already knew - Columbia County softball is just about as good as it gets.
All three Columbia County teams playing in the opening day of the tournament qualified for a trip to the state sectionals. Greenbrier and Evans breezed through the first two games and remain undefeated heading into today's semifinal and final rounds.
Lakeside took the tougher road after losing a second-round game to Greenbrier, but the Lady Panthers battled back in the loser's bracket to also claim a spot in today's play.
"We're all three in the same tier this year," Greenbrier coach Garrett Black said of the Columbia County schools. "Any one of us can beat the other on a given day."
The Lady Wolfpack defeated Glynn Academy 8-1 in the first round thanks, in part, to a three-run home run from senior Tiffany Blackburn. Facing Lakeside in the second round, Greenbrier came away with a 4-1 win despite a home run off the bat of Lady Panther senior Hillary Hall.
Evans had similar success with an opening round 9-1 win over Ware County. The Lady Knights knocked off the south subregion's top seed, Effingham County, in the second round 5-1. Sophomore Heather Raborn made the difference with a home run in the fourth to break a 1-1 tie.
In the two games Evans played Saturday, the Lady Knights tallied 22 hits.
"We're young, but we were up today when we needed to be," Evans coach Colette Cassedy said. "We met (Saturday) morning to do a little bit of hitting before the tournament. I think just swinging the bats a little bit woke them up."
As the No. 3 seed, Lakeside had the toughest road to state playoff qualification. After a loss to Greenbrier, the Lady Panthers exploded for a 15-0 win in their next game to end Ware County's season and advance to the state sectionals. Sophomore Kaitlin Hill and senior Andria Batchelor combined for a no-hitter while Hall hit her second home run in as many games.
Effingham County got the last state playoff bid with a win over Glynn Academy.
Saturday's play set the stage for today's semifinals and final rounds at Patriots Park. Greenbrier and Evans remain undefeated in the tournament and will face each other at noon today in the semifinal round. Lakeside and Effingham County will square off in an elimination game also at noon. The region championship game is scheduled to begin at 4:30 p.m.
Today's results will decide seeding for the state sectionals in Hampton on Oct. 20-21.
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