Published Wednesday, October 10, 2012
By DOUG GORMAN
For the East Coweta, Newnan and Northgate softball teams, the real quest begins in earnest this afternoon when they host GHSA State Tournament first-round series starting with doubleheaders today.
The state-ranked Lady Indians and Lady Vikings lineups look for a return trip to Columbus, while the Lady Cougars are hoping to get back to the Elite 8 after being knocked out of last year’s second round following a trip in 2010.
A third and deciding game is set for Thursday, if needed in all best-of-three first-round series.
Northgate, which is trying to win a second straight state title, this time in Class AAAAA, will begin its quest today with a 4:30 p.m., doubleheader against Harris County (19-10), the No. 3 seed from Region 1-AAAAA.
A year ago, the Lady Vikings defeated Whitewater to win the Class AAAA crown, the program’s second in school history and the first since 2007.
The Lady Vikings (25-7) finished second in last week’s Region 4-AAAAA tournament. It may not matter much, however.
Last year’s Northgate team ended a tough Region 3-AAAA tournament as the No. 4 seed. All four of its state qualifiers teams were the last standing at the GHSA Elite Eight tournament in Columbus. For the second straight year, the Lady Vikings were joined by Union Grove, Ola and Whitewater among qualifiers in their region.
Northgate comes into the postseason ranked No. 2 in the gasports.com Class AAAAA poll.
The Lady Vikings defeated Starr’s Mill, Whitewater and Ola in last week’s region tournament before falling to 3-2 to Union Grove in the finals of the double-elimination event on a walk-off single. Northgate played three games on the final day of the tournament, coming a run from winning the region out of the loser’s bracket.
Harris County dropped its last two games of the 1-AAAAA tournament, including a 5-3 decision to runner-up Lee County (18-13) in eight innings.
In Class AAAAAA, East Coweta (27-3-1) comes into the postseason ranked fourth after going undefeated as last week’s host in the Region 3-AAAAA Tournament, capped off with back-to-back wins over rival Newnan.
The Lady Indians held off the Lady Cougars (17-13) for a 5-4 victory in the championship.
For East Coweta head coach Franklin Deloach, winning the region title just the first step in what he hopes is a successful posteason.
“Winning the region title is big,” he said. “I am proud of all the girls and the coaching staff. We really persevered. It was just a dogfight (against Newnan).”
Having reeled off 21 wins in their last 22 games, the Lady Indans host Region 2-AAAAAA’s No. 4 seed, Newton, in a 4 p.m. doubleheader that will be an uphill climb at best for the Lady Rams (2-14).
Deloach set a milestone during the region tournament with his 300th career victory, but one thing hasn’t changed for the veteran coach, he doesn’t care who he plays to open the playoffs.
“I am superstitious when it comes to that,” he said. “I really don’t look or care who we play. We just have to keep perserving.”
Newnan, meanwhile, opens the playoffs at home against Luella (14-11-1), the No. 3 seed from 2-AAAAAA. Play begins with a 5 p.m. doubleheader at Newnan. The Lady Cougars won seven of their last eight regular season games heading into the region tournament.
Both Newton and Luella were former region rivals of both Coweta teams the past two years in the former 2-AAAAA alignment.
“We are starting to play well at the right time.” Newnan coach Carrie Gilmore said after the region tournament. “We are glad to be in the state tournament. We just want to keep it going.”