PERRY — Three runs were all that separated the Bulloch Academy Lady Gators from their first-ever GISA Class AAA fast-pitch softball Final Four.
Bulloch lost 3-1 in the final game of the best-of-three series with the second-ranked Westfield Lady Hornets Thursday. The Lady Gators were nipped 1-0 in Game One but rallied to win Game Two 2-1 and force the deciding Game Three.
Bulloch Academy (19-8) pushed Westfield to the brink in the series, which was the second round of the GISA Class AAA state playoffs.
“We played some good softball today,” said BA head coach Chandler Dennard. “There is nothing bad I can say. We played well enough to win but we just didn’t come up the key hits when we needed them.”
The Lady Gators pushed its only run across early.
Senior Rachel Gilbert singled and took second. Sophomore Marianna Peebles laid down a bunt but the throw to first base got away and the fleet-footed Gilbert scored.
“We were up 1-0 until the third inning,” said Dennard. “But we also left five runners on base in those three innings.”
Westfield chipped away at the lead, scoring single runs in the third, fourth and fifth innings.
Sophomore pitcher Lauren Dennard, who had pitched the previous two games, got the loss in the final contest. She wound up hurling 299 pitches on the day.
Junior Taylor Collins cranked a solo home run in the bottom of the fourth and the Lady Gators held on for the win in Game Two.
“We were up 2-0 and they didn’t score until the seventh,” said Dennard. “Taylor pounded a ball about 220 feet for her home run.”
Good defense preserved the victory for the series split.
“Westfield had the bases loaded in the top of the seventh with no outs,” recounted Dennard. “Eighth grader Page Spence runs down a shot in the left-center field gap for one out and a runner scored from third. The very next batter hits a looper into short left. Page makes a sliding catch for the second out and doubles a runner off at second to end the inning.”
Even though the Lady Gators outhit Westfield 6-5, the Lady Hornets put the shots together when it counted and held on for the win in Game One.
“We let that game get away from us,” said Dennard. “We outhit them but stranded eight runners and made four base running mistakes.”
For Bulloch, both Gilbert and Spence went 2-for-3. Dennard scattered five hits through seven innings of work.
The Lady Gators beat Sherwood Academy twice on Saturday (4-1 and 4-0) in the opening round of the playoffs to advance to face the Lady Hornets in the second round.
Bulloch had been to the Class AA Final Four three out of the past four years prior to this year’s jump in classification to Class AAA.
Cram, Eagles begin preseason practice
After five weeks of work in the weight room, the Georgia Southern Lady Eagles hit the court for the first official practice of the 2010-11 season Tuesday. The Lady Eagles practiced in Hanner Fieldhouse and got down to the basics.
“We worked on fundamentals and conditioning,” said GSU coach Rusty Cram. “For the next five to 10 practices, we’ll throw in some fundamental things to build toward the team stuff. We certainly spent a lot of time on the offensive fundamentals and defensive fundamentals, a lot of running, a lot of conditioning and a lot of shooting. We have to work on the mental as well as the physical, but that just takes time.
Cram is entering his 15th season at the helm of the women’s basketball program and 21st year overall at Georgia Southern. Cram is the winningest coach in Georgia Southern women’s basketball history, carrying a 219-190 overall record into the new season.
NC State edges Georgia Southern
RALEIGH, N.C. — The Georgia Southern men’s soccer team took a 2-0 lead at N.C. State Tuesday night, but the Wolfpack battled back with three goals for a 3-2 win at Dail Soccer Stadium.
Freshman defender Drew Ruggles scored the Eagles’ first goal after the Wolfpack defended Ethan LaPan’s corner kick, but Ruggles converted the loose ball to the top left corner. Ruggles’ first career goal gave Georgia Southern a 1-0 lead at the 24-minute mark.
N.C. State took three shots in the remainder of the first half, with two going wide and one blocked by Eagle defenders. Georgia Southern took the 1-0 lead into halftime.
Shortly after the start of the second half, LaPan re-entered the match. In the 47th minute, he took the assist from Hunter Norton and beat the N.C. State goalkeeper with his shot hitting the far post before going into the net. LaPan’s third goal of the 2010 season gave the Eagles a 2-0 advantage.
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