By Coach Lisa Skelton - SPECIAL TO THE NEWNAN TIMES-HERALD
(Gray, Ga.) - The day after softball season ends can be bittersweet for players and coaches.
With no more practice scheduled, time is available to reflect on the ups and downs of the season.
What will I do with my time for players, and what comes next for the seniors? For coaches, there are always questions around decisions made.
For Northgate Head Coach Carleigh Baker at Northgate, who just completed her initial season, the biggest question is, why did the region tournament have to be rained out?
The Lady Vikings finished their region schedule with an 8-4 record. All four of those losses were by one run. The region tournament was their opportunity to improve their seeding for the state playoffs, and they never got that chance.
Ultimately, top-seeded Northside Columbus, and the tournament host, decided to cancel the event.
Saddled with the fourth seed from Region 2-5A, Northgate drew the top defending state champion Jones County Lady Hounds in the first round.
In the opening game of the series, the Lady Hounds went with Georgia commit Destin Howard in the circle. The Lady Vikings were not able to mount an attack against her.
In the 6-0 win for Jones County, Howard struck out 13 and did not allow a hit.
With no offense and a limping defense, the Lady Vikings lost the first game and went directly into elimination mode.
Kyra Ayock took the ball for Game Two and was a star. From the circle, she struck out 10, and with the bat, she had two hits, including a go-ahead home run in the bottom of the sixth.
Jones County went back to Howard as their starter, and the Lady Vikings fared better this time. In the first inning, freshman Harmony Jackson walked and stole two bases.
Aycock brought Jackson home with a single.
Overall, Northgate had five hits in the second game. Junior catcher Fran Lumpp had a two-hit night while Jackson had added a hit in the fifth inning.
Northgate led 2-1 going to the seventh inning, but Jones County still had fuel in their engines. They scored two and took a 3-2 lead with Northgate down to their final three outs.
Junior Hannah Smith drew a walk with two outs, and the Lady Hounds intentionally walked Aycock, who had banged a ball off the scoreboard just an inning earlier. Olivia Cato worked the count full but was called out on a check swing called a strike by the field umpire.
It was a bitter way to end the season for the Lady Vikings and the careers of their senior leaders.
Coach Baker shared afterward, "Offense has been the struggle for Northgate Softball all season. It was just unfortunate that our defense was not where we needed it to be to back up our pitchers who combined had a total of 30 strikeouts and zero earned runs for the night."
"While we did not reach our goal, I am still proud of this team and how they left it all on the field," she concluded.
Northgate ended the season 13-8 overall on the season.
While Coach Baker was disappointed in how the game ended, she summed up the season: "Our seniors were great leaders and will be missed, but they have taught our underclassmen how to be a class act when we win and when we lose. Our future is bright, and next season will be even better."