Lady Tigers get hot at right time

Published 1:21 am Wednesday, October 11, 2017

By Kevin Eckleberry

LAGRANGE – They weren’t exactly riding a wave of positive momentum as the regular season came to a close.

Heading into the Region 5-AAAA softball tournament, the Troup Lady Tigers had dropped seven of eight games overall, and they were on a six-game losing streak against region foes.

As Troup made the trip to Cartersville for its first-round series, though, none of that mattered.

What happened in the previous weeks and months was not relevant, since Troup and Cartersville would both be starting with a blank slate.

Fortunately for the Lady Tigers, they picked a fine time to play their best softball of the season.

Troup won the series against Cartersville to not only advance in the region tournament, but secure a spot in the state playoffs.

Troup then beat Cedartown 6-5 in dramatic fashion to earn the region’s number three seed for the state playoffs.

Troup’s first-round opponent will be Northwest Whitfield, which finished second in Region 6-AAAA.

The series will be played at Northwest Whitfield, and they’ll play a doubleheader today beginning at 5 p.m.

If needed, a third and deciding game would be on Thursday, also at Northwest Whitfield.

Northwest Whitfield (25-4) finished first in the region in the regular season, and it enters the playoffs as the top-ranked team in Class AAAA.

“I couldn’t be more excited, and proud,” Troup head coach Mason Brackett said. “It’s been such an up-and-down season. We’ve had some highs, and we’ve had some really low lows. And for them to play like this, and to get the highest seed we could come out with in our region tournament, I’ll take that.”

To make it to state, Troup had to dispatch a Cartersville team it had fallen to twice in the regular season.

Troup rallied to win the opening game of that series 10-9 before Cartersville evened things up with a 12-6 win.

Troup returned to Cartersville for Game 3, and it rolled to an 11-3 win.

Junior shortstop Kayla Lane carried a heavy load in the Cartersville series with nine hits, two home runs including a grand slam, and 13 RBIs.

In the decisive Game 3, Lane had three hits and five RBIs.

Cedartown, which beat LaGrange in the first round of the region playoffs, visited Troup on Friday to determine the region’s third and fourth seeds.

Troup trailed by two when it scored three runs in the bottom of the seventh to pull off the dramatic 6-5 win.

Skye Loftin completed the comeback with an RBI single to bring in the winning run, and Mackenzie Miller got the complete-game victory on the mound.

Now, Troup will look to carry that positive momentum into the state tournament.

“We haven’t played this well since maybe the very beginning when we won our first four,” Brackett said. “It’s all about getting hot and playing well at the right time.”

Troup’s top hitter this season is senior catcher Maddie Weathers, who is hitting .448 with six doubles and 27 RBIs.

Weathers began the season on a 17-game hitting streak, and that included a 5-for-5 performance in a win over Brookstone.

Remarkably, considering the wear and tear of the position, Weathers has caught every inning of every game this season, and that included an early-season tournament where Troup played three games in one day.

Weathers is planning on playing softball at Georgia Military College in Milledgeville, and she’ll be eligible to sign in November.

Lane pushed her average up to .393 with the strong performance in the region tournament, and she has two home runs, 12 doubles and 22 RBIs.

Abby Taylor, who has handled the pitching duties along with Miller, is hitting .385 with two doubles and 13 RBIs.

Loftin is hitting .347 with 24 RBIs, and Hadleigh Livingston, Olivian McInvale and Christina Garcia have been productive members of the lineup.

One of Troup’s best players, Madison McCartney, suffered a season-ending injury on Sept. 25, so the team has had to carry on without her.

McCartney was hitting .365 with 19 RBIs.

On the mound, Taylor and Miller have pitched most of the innings, and they’ve been effective.

While the offense has been productive all season, Troup has struggled defensively at times, but that wasn’t as much of an issue in the region tournament.

“One of our biggest issues has been that big inning where we’ve given up four, five or six runs in that one inning,” Brackett said. “And that ends up being the difference in a lot of games. And we made some errors (against Cedartown), but we were able to limit the damage.

“I think two runs was the most they scored in an inning. We still allowed three or four unearned runs, so we still have a lot to work on, but it was much better.”

ROSTER: Madison McCartney, Hadleigh Livingston, Olivia McInvale, Dallas Strickland, Kayla Lane, Emilee Johnson, Maddie Livingston, Maddie Weathers, Abby Taylor, Christina Garcia, Skye Loftin, Tashauna Askew, Mackenzie Miller