LaGrange sweeps Cartersville
By KEVIN ECKLEBERRY
It was all about last-inning fireworks for the LaGrange Lady Grangers.
In both of Saturday’s softball games between LaGrange and Cartersville, it was all tied up heading into the final inning.
In the first game, it was sophomore Camden Smith delivering the decisive blow, a dramatic walk-off grand slam in the bottom of the seventh inning that gave LaGrange a 6-2 victory.
In the second game, it was tied 2-2 when freshman Macee Stone came through with a two-out, two-run double to give LaGrange the lead in the top of the eighth inning.
Cartersville was unable to answer in the bottom of the inning, and LaGrange walked away with the 4-2 victory to complete the sweep and improve to 7-2 in Region 5-AAAA.
It was an important day for LaGrange, which still has an opportunity to finish first or second in the region.
That’s vital because the region’s top-two finishers will meet for the region championship in a best-of-three series.
LaGrange has three region games remaining, all at home.
LaGrange plays Sandy Creek today, Chapel Hill on Thursday, and Central-Carroll on Sept. 27.
While Sandy Creek is in last place in the region, Chapel Hill and Central-Carroll are tied for first place at 8-2.
LaGrange’s two region losses were to Chapel Hill and Central-Carroll on the road.
“I told them, I don’t think they realize how big of a day today was that we were able to sweep going into (the last three region games),” LaGrange head coach Gabby Heath said.
Cartersville made LaGrange work for it.
In the first game, Cartersville led 2-0 when LaGrange tied it with two runs in the bottom of the fifth on RBI single by Destiny Fitzpatrick and a run-scoring double by Jacee Marable.
It was still a 2-2 game when LaGrange loaded the bases in the seventh inning.
With one out, Smith came to the plate, and all she needed was a flyball to bring in the winning run.
She did better than that.
Smith hammered the ball over the center-field fence with plenty of room to spare, giving her the walk-off slam.
As Smith rounded third base she was greeted by her jubilant head coach, and her exhilarated teammates were waiting to celebrate with her at home plate.
“I really just wanted to square it up, and put it in the air,” Smith said. “When I hit it, I really didn’t think it was over. When it did, it was kind of surreal.”
Smith also hit a home run in a win over Flowery Branch on Sept. 7.
“She’s been swinging the bat well in the cages,” Heath said. “You can feel that she’s going to be successful. She’s in a mindset right now where there’s confidence, and we really don’t say a whole lot to her. Just do your job.”
Smith got the job done on the pitcher’s mound as well with the seven-inning complete game, and she limited Cartersville to three hits and one earned run with five strikeouts.
Offensively, Fitzpatrick had three of LaGrange’s nine hits, and she also walked and scored two runs.
With LaGrange scuffling a bit, it was Fitzpatrick’s RBI single in the fifth inning that got things rolling.
“It was really big,” Fitzpatrick said. “Our hitting wasn’t there. But after that, it was contagious.”
Hannah Karcher had two hits for LaGrange, and Malone Aldridge, Katelynn Mobley, Marable and Smith each had one hit.
In Saturday’s second game, it was tied 2-2 through three innings, and that’s the way it remained until the top of the eighth when LaGrange broke through.
After Fitzpatrick and Marable reached on singles, Stone came to bat with two outs with a chance to give her team the lead.
The freshman, as she has done often this season, ripped the ball to the outfield fence for the two-run double, and LaGrange had the lead.
Heath said Stone has the ideal mindset to succeed in those pressure situations.
“The stress isn’t there,” Heath said. “She’s very calm. The situation doesn’t bother her, and that’s why she’s so successful with two outs.”
Cartersville got the tying runs on base in the bottom of the eighth with no outs, but Smith was up to the challenge.
Smith, who went to the pitcher’s mound in relief of Stone in the fourth inning, retired Cartersville’s final three batters to finish it.
Smith threw five innings of shutout ball in relief to get the win, while Stone threw the first three innings and gave up one earned run.
Offensively, LaGrange scored single runs in the first and third innings.
Aldridge led off the game with a single, and later stole home for the game’s first run.
In the third inning, Fitzpatrick reached on a two-out single, and she moved to third on Marable’s double before scoring on a Smith base hit.
Aldridge, Fitzpatrick, Marable and Stone each had two hits, and Smith had one hit and a walk.