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White County blasts way to state tournament berth
White County pitcher Callie McDonald delivers a pitch during the third inning of their Region 8-AAA tournament game with Stephens County Wednesday afternoon at the White County High softball field.

CLEVELAND–With two swings of her bat, Morgan Jacobsen led the White County softball team back to the state tournament.

The first, her 11th home run of the year, a three-run shot, turned a one-run deficit into a 5-3, walk-off win over Stephens County (13-12-1) in the Lady Warriors’ opening game of the Region 8-AAA Tournament.

The senior third baseman’s 12th home run, a two-run shot to left to open the second game, jump-started the Warriors’ offense in a 12-1 win over the Lady Indians to clinch a berth in the state tournament.

"It’s really exciting," said White County senior outfielder Aubrie Gstalder. "It’s my senior year, and I would like nothing less than another state title."

The defending Class AAA state champions now have that chance, although the Lady Warriors (24-6, 11-3) aren’t done in the region tournament yet.

"We want home-field advantage," said coach Lloyd Collins, who is coaching the team while head coach Beth Kimsey attends to a death in the family.

White County will play again at 10 a.m. Saturday at Oconee County against the other three remaining teams in the tournament to determine seeding.

The Lady Warriors will also be looking for a possible region title. Last year they fell in the championship series and grabbed the No. 2 seed.

They’re hot enough right now to be legitimate contenders, having won 19 of their past 20 and 13 straight.

That streak was in jeopardy in the bottom of the seventh inning Wednesday night with Stephens County ahead 3-2.

White County had one out and runners on first and third, normally a good situation, but the Lady Warriors had stranded runners all night.

Only this time they had the perfect player at the plate.

"If I would put anyone up there in that situation, I would put Morgan Jacobsen up there," Gstalder said. "She always gets it done, and she saved the day."

Jacobsen’s blast cleared the fence and slammed into the pine trees, turning around the game and the series, and making a winner out of starting pitcher Callie McDonald. McDonald pitched seven innings and allowed just two earned runs, three total, on eight hits. She also struck out one batter.

"It was a huge momentum killer right there," said Lady Indians coach Chris Caldwell. "The girls played well, we just played a good ball club."

In her very next at bat, in the top of the first inning in game two, Jacobsen hit a two-run home run. Designated Hitter Callie McDonald followed with a solo shot to put the Lady Warriors ahead 3-0 before an out had even been recorded.

Freshman pitcher Hannah Wall had all the offense she needed, throwing a seven-inning complete-game to take the series win. Wall finished with three strikeouts, scattered five hits, two walks and allowed just one run.

Stephens County pitcher Kaylee Pace started both games and took both losses. Relief pitcher Shelby Shultz was hit hard by the Lady Warriors from the moment she entered the second game.

Jacobsen finished the series 6 for 8 with a walk with two home runs, five RBIs and a double. Catcher Kristen Mullis finished 5 for 8 with two doubles, a walk and an RBI. Outfielder Heather Herdliska finished just 1 for 7 with a walk, but recorded four RBIs in the two games.

McDonald pitched her sixth complete game of the year in the opener and finished 2 for 7 with two RBIs, a walk and a home run in the series.

Stephens County was led on offense in the series by Megan Goss, who put the Lady Indians ahead in the first game with a two-run single and finished 2 for 6 with two RBIs.

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