For the first time, four Forsyth County softball teams are going to the state tournament.
Lambert and North Forsyth both survived the elimination round during the Region 6-AAAAAA tournament on Tuesday at Fowler Park, earning spots in the Class 6A postseason alongside South Forsyth and West Forsyth, which had already secured their playoff berths on Saturday.
The Lady Raiders mercy-ruled Alpharetta 8-0 for their third-straight state tournament appearance before topping Lambert 9-4 and locking the Longhorns into the No. 4 seed going into the playoffs. The Lady Longhorns knocked off Chattahoochee 6-1 earlier in the day to mark their first-ever trip to the state tournament, while West defeated South 7-3 to advance in the winner’s bracket.
North scored three runs in the first and second inning to jump out to a quick 6-0 lead over Lambert and never looked back.
The Lady Raiders (16-10, 7-3) rode the hot bat of Brittany Smith to victory. The five-hole hitter finished 3-for-4 with a double, two singles, three RBIs and scored two runs.
"She’s real aggressive at the plate," North head coach Bud Henderson said. "She was making plays and you can’t ask for a better performance. She was a senior stepping up and big players step up in big games and that’s what she’s doing."
Smith delivered an RBI single in the bottom of the first inning, scoring Jenna Zirlott for the first run. With two runners on base, pitcher Rachel Mixon (4 IP, 1 K, 4 H, 2 BB, 2 ER) helped her cause at the plate with a two-run triple that rolled to the fence in left-center field.
The second inning was more of the same, as the Lady Raiders scored on two wild pitches and an RBI single from Smith off Lambert pitcher Kassie Howard (1 2/3 IP, 6 H, 1 BB, 6 R, 5 ER).
After Katie York punched in an RBI double in the third, Lambert responded in the fourth off a two-run double from Megan Walz, making the score 7-2.
Smith stopped the Lambert rally in the bottom half of the frame with an RBI double and stole home when the catcher wasn’t looking.
"We got some big hits when we needed to," Henderson said. "We were pretty solid through the order. We got on base and put some pressure on them with some steals and bunts, and we were executing very well.
"We’ve been talking a lot about being positive and having mental toughness because this time of year that’s basically what it’s all about."
Lambert’s Maddie Butz came up with an RBI single and Zoe Miller drew a walk that scored a run before North relief pitcher Sydney Turner recorded a strikeout for the final out of the inning with the bases loaded. Turner logged three straight outs in seventh inning, bringing the final score to 9-4.
Lambert head coach Dana Corr said the loss doesn’t take away from the fact that the fourth-year Lady Longhorns have earned their first trip to the postseason.
"We’re still excited," Corr said. "We accomplished our goal of making it to the state tournament, so we’re really excited and anything that happens after this point is icing on the cake for us."
Lambert (22-8, 5-5) didn’t have much trouble in the first game against Chattahoochee, as Howard (7 IP, 6 K, 3 H, 3 BB) didn’t allow an earned run. After the Lady Longhorns gave up their only run in the first inning on an error, just one Cougar reached third base for the rest of the game.
Megan Whitlatch tied the score with an RBI single to left field and Rachael Ross put Lambert ahead 2-1 with a line drive single up the middle, scoring Savannah Huffstetler.
The Lady Longhorns poured it on in the fourth inning with Butz’s two-run single and a two-run double from Macy Stovall, boosting the score to 6-1.
Earlier in the afternoon, North qualified for the state tournament with an 8-0 victory over Alpharetta in six innings.
Andrea Coleman tossed a complete game shutout, striking out five while allowing four hits, two walks and a hit batsman.
Savannah Chapman put North on top 1-0 with an RBI single in the bottom of the third inning, and Karlee Grab delivered an RBI double that made the score 2-0 in the fourth.
North later added runs courtesy of an error and a Smith single, but most of the damage was done by Turner.
Turner (2-for-4, 2B, 4 RBIs) drove in four runs during her final two turns at the plate — two of them on a walk-off double in the sixth inning.
North was scheduled to face South on Wednesday at 4 p.m. The winner of that game goes on to face West in the region championship at 6:30 p.m. A second game, if necessary, would be played Thursday at 6 p.m. to conclude the double elimination tournament.