The Northside softball team didn’t necessarily need four more runs to finish off a sweep of Flowery Branch on Wednesday at home, but it was happy to have them nonetheless.
Freshman right fielder Jada Chadwick came to the plate with the bases loaded in the sixth inning of Game 2 and belted a grand slam to put Northside ahead 11-1. The Lady Patriots held the lead and, coupled with their 4-3 win in Game 1 earlier, advanced to the state Class AAAAA softball tournament.
Despite the loss, it was a stellar season for Flowery Branch after beating Alexander in a two-game sweep of a first-round series on Oct. 14.
Northside fell behind 3-0 in the second inning with three hits and a handful of defensive miscues.
The day started well for the Falcons. In the third inning of Game 1, Callie Alexzulian reached base on an error to lead off the inning and Kara Kight reached on a bunt single. The next two batters were set down, one on a strikeout and one on a sacrifice that put the runners at second and third with two outs.
Alana Collins reached on an error, however, to drive home the first run of the afternoon for Flowery Branch. Chloe Zoeller followed with a two-RBI single to make its biggest lead of the day at 3-0.
Flowery Branch’s starter for the first game Alyssa Kimbrell pitched a complete game and allowed just three earned runs in the loss.
With the win, Northside’s making its first trip to the championship tournament since 2009, when it finished as state runner-up to Columbus.
“That was our goal,” Northside coach Brandon Jenkins said. “It’s my third year here, and I told them when I came in that winning region championships and competing for a state title was where I wanted to go.”
Now, with just seven other teams remaining, Northside has as good a chance as any.
“Once you’re there, anyone has a shot,” Jenkins said.
Game 2 left little doubt from early on for Northside. It scored three runs in the third, one in each of the fourth and fifth and plated six in the sixth to take the 10-run lead necessary for the mercy rule.
Hannah George went 3-for-4 with a double and three RBIs, Emily Holmes was 1-for-2 with two RBIs and Jordan Wells was 2-for-3 with a double for Northside. And then, of course, there was Chadwick who finished 2-for-4 with the grand slam and five RBIs.
After trailing by three early, the first game took a little more from the home team.
Northside began chipping away in the third, however. Hannah George drove in a run with a single to cut it to 3-1 after three, and then the Lady Patriots broke out in the fourth.
Madison Whipkey drove in a run with a single, and Mary Horne drove in two with a double to put Northside ahead 4-3. It was enough for pitcher Allison Sievers, who set down nine of the final 11 batters to ensure the victory.
Sievers pitched a complete game to get the win, giving up five hits and no earned runs. She struck out six. Horne led the way at the plate with a 2-for-4 day, both doubles, and two RBIs. Whipkey was 2-for-3.
“We’re going to be scrappy,” Jenkins said. “When we fell behind, I wasn’t worried. I let them hear it, but I wasn’t worried.”
Now, the Lady Patriots will turn their attention to the state tournament, which will be played at South Commons in Columbus on Oct. 29-31. Northside will face the winner of Houston County and River Ridge in the opening round on Oct. 29.
Jenkins said the team is proud to be there, but wants to make the most of the opportunity that it has.