By Rob Grubbs
The GHSA softball season is moving into the home stretch. Teams are fighting for position and tuning up in late season tournaments and nonregion games.
On Monday night, the Northgate Lady Vikings hosted the Newnan Lady Cougars in an intercounty matchup. Northgate ace pitcher Olivia Cato was masterful in the Lady Viking 3-0 win.
The Lady Vikings took the lead in the bottom of the second. After Kyra Aycock reached base on an error, Madison Lumpp laced a double to centerfield to score the initial run. While that was good enough for Cato, the Lady Viking offense gave her a little breathing room in the bottom of the fourth.
Hannah Smith hit a two-out double that scored both Lumpp and Anna Baldwin for the 3-0 final.
Cato pitched a one-hitter and struck out 16 in a complete-game performance. Gwen Holbrook added two hits for the Northgate offense.
The Lady Cougars once again got a solid pitching performance from freshman Maddie Veal, who gave up no earned runs. Kaylen Madrey got the lone Newnan hit.
Lady Viking Head Coach Lisa Skelton has tinkered with her batting order a bit since the Lady Vikings lost last week at Starr’s Mill. Northgate played in the Grayson tournament this past weekend against some of the top competition in the state.
On Friday afternoon, Northgate defeated Jones County 6-2 behind a complete game from Aycock. Not to be outdone from the circle, she also went 2-for-2 from with plate with a home run. Holbrook added two hits in that game as well.
They followed that with an impressive win over a solid Walnut Grove team, 5-3. Natalie Heath homered and Aycock hit a two-out, bases-loaded double for the victory. Cato got the win in the circle.
In their fight to garner the second spot in the region, they have a key game Thursday at home against Northside Columbus.
The East Coweta Lady Indians played in the Grayson Tournament as well. Although they lost their first game of the year to North Gwinnett, they won three others, including a win against Grayson and Buford, two of the top teams in the state.
In their first game against Norcross, a 10-0-win, Ashleigh Griffin, Kaliyah Matthews and Katie Taylor all homered, and Jaliyah Holmes and Mollie Peacock combined for the no-hitter.
A big focus of the tournament was Head Coach Franklin DeLoach’s goal to continue to develop a solid #2 pitching option behind Holmes. He got that Saturday morning when Kylie Ferguson hurled five strong innings against Grayson for the victory. Matthews and Taylor powered with the offense with 3 RBI each.
They completed the weekend with a defeat of the #1 ranked Buford Lady Wolves from 6A with a 7-1 win. Holmes pitched a complete game, and Kip Heggood led the offense.
Coach DeLoach knows what it will take to add a third championship in four years to the scoreboard. He said “We need better defense and solid pitching depth to have a chance. We will have to be able to play very big in big moments.”
Big moments have become the norm for the Lady Indians.
East Coweta hosts Heard County Wednesday afternoon and Starr’s Mill on Thursday.