Lambert: vs. Lassiter, 2 p.m., on Thursday.
South: vs. East Coweta, 4 p.m., on Thursday.
Planning the logistics for competing in the GHSA Softball State Championships this week went much quicker for South Forsyth softball head coach Ronnie Davis this season.
A year ago, the Lady War Eagles became the first Forsyth County team to reach the ultimate stage for fast-pitch softball since the GHSA introduced the championship format. Everything was new for Davis, his coaching staff and South players.
No surprises for South (18-12) this season, Davis said. In fact, Davis has been a resource for Lambert head coach Brooks Youngblood as the Lady Longhorns (25-3) make their first appearance in the state championships that begin Thursday and conclude Saturday at the Columbus Softball Complex.
Their talk likely focused less around the logistics of the event. The lodging, travel and double-elimination bracket condensed over three days aren’t too foreign for most players; it’s similar to what many experience with their travel softball teams.
But the atmosphere is unique.
“You hope that the kids can play the way they’re capable of playing and not try to do too much,” Davis said. “With being down there last year, reflecting back on it a little bit, some of our kids realize this is a special time. The level of play is definitely elevated, but it’s still the same [game].”
“I think there’s something about playing for your school,” Youngblood said. “You may get down to Columbus, just the atmosphere is going to be intense. We’re really talking to the girls that you belong. Don’t let the moment overtake you. Enjoy the moment, and understand that you belong here. We’re going to face some of the best teams we’ve faced all year. But you’re a good team. We’ve got all the right pieces that you need.”
Indeed, both teams seem to have the necessary ingredients for a deep run. Both have ace pitchers in Kassidy Krupit (Lambert) and Katherine Huey (South). Both have deep lineups anchored by sluggers in Marissa Guimbarda (Lambert) and Sarah Womack (South). Both play solid defense.
And both had their mettle tested during the regular season and state playoffs leading up to Columbus.
Half of Lambert’s games during the regular season were decided by two runs or less, and they never lost in such games, going 11-0 including three against South.
“Playing South three times, West Forsyth three times – those were intense games,” Youngblood said. “They felt that pressure, and every single time they’ve come through.”
The Lady War Eagles encountered more adversity entering Columbus this time than last season, but perhaps they are better for it. Trailing 5-2 and down to its final three outs in Game 2 against Kennesaw Mountain in the second round of the Class 7A playoffs, South rallied in extra innings to force a Game 3 and ultimately advance.
“The younger kids take out of it that we’re never out of a game. But you hope they don’t think we can give up some runs and we’ll just come back,” Davis said. “As you progress in the state playoffs it’s a little tougher to do.”