Lady Cougars sweep their way to Elite 8 behind 26-hit outburst
COVINGTON - If hitting is truly contagious, Newnan head softball coach Carrie Gilmore is hoping whatever virus her team caught during Wednesday's doubleheader sweep of Alcovy hangs around for at least another 7 to 10 days.
The Lady Cougars' program clinched its first trip to the GHSA Elite 8 Tournament in Columbus since 2010 after pounding out 26 hits, nine for extra bases in separate 7-3 and 10-0 victories.
Five Newnan batters had multi-hit games in a 14-hit performance in the opener, led by Tori Loveless' two doubles at the top of the order. Another trio followed suit in the finale that included two more doubles from Leslie Davis in her 3-for-3 outing with 3 RBIs.
It allowed the Lady Cougars to celebrate even earlier than hoped after Loveless retired Alcovy in a 1-2-3 fifth inning to clinch the victory by mercy rule.
'This is awesome. I'm so proud of our seniors,' said Gilmore, whose team will take a 25-8 record into next week's tournament. 'You could tell all of them really wanted this. They came out there and were so loud and cheering for each other the entire time.'
Coming off a disappointing finish to this year's Region 3-AAAAAA tournament at home that left them with its No. 2 seed, Newnan left no doubt that its bats could carry them when needed, overcoming a 3-1 deficit in game one and then outscoring Alcovy - this year's Region 2-AAAAAA champions - 16-0 over the final nine innings of the doubleheader.
It was quite the turnaround from last week's first-round series where the Lady Cougars squeezed out a 1-0 victory over Colquitt County in the final game while relying on Loveless' shutout effort on the mound and a solo blast by senior Chaycie Goggins that accounted for all of the scoring in Game 3.
'Out bats were rolling [Tuesday]. We didn't see that from them so much in the region tournament,' Gilmore said. 'This year has been a little different. We haven't depended on just one or two people. We've been able to move them around the order.'
Loveless proved that theory true after being moved to Newnan's leadoff spot for both games and the junior promptly followed through with a 3-for-4 effort in Game 1 with hits in her final three at bats including a gametying RBI single during a four-run outburst that gave Newnan a lead for good in the top of the fourth.
Trailing 3-1, the Lady Cougars put together five hits, three of which going for extra bases. Arden Jobe's RBI double to center field was sandwiched between run-scoring triples by Lauren Ferguson and Goggins, the latter pushing Newnan ahead 5-3.
The team added two more insurance runs in the top of the seventh in a rally that started with consecutive singles by Lindsay Stewart and Leslie Davis to leadoff the inning. With two outs, Ferguson plated both runs on a two-out RBI single to right.
Loveless, meanwhile, allowed just one earned run over both victories, striking out three in game one and three more while scattering five hits in game two.
Newnan's No. 2 through 6 hitters then exploded in the finale at the plate, finishing 8-for-12 with 7 RBIs. In addition to Davis' three hits, Stewart and Jobe each went 2-for-3 with an RBI while Goggins added another extrabase hit with one of the Lady Cougars' four doubles.
Loveless, Hannah Scarbrough, Shania Colton and Lauren Ferguson also had base hits in Game Two as Newnan scored in every inning of the finale, pushing ahead 3-0 after one inning with four hits.
The lead quickly ballooned to 8-0 following a five-run outburst in the second on five more hits by the Lady Cougars.
'They say hitting is contagious,' Gilmore said, hoping to carry the momentum of a second-round sweep into next week's Elite 8 Tournament, which will begin Thursday at South Commons Complex in Columbus. 'All the girls are so excited to be going to Columbus. I'm just so proud of them.'
GAME ONE LADY COUGARS 7, LADY TIGERS 3
Newnan 100 400 2 - 7 14 3 Alcovy 003 000 0 - 3 8 0
WP - Tori Loveless LP - K. Johnson 2
B - Tori Loveless 2, Arden Jobe 3B - Chaycie Goggins, Lauren Ferguson
Lady Cougars 10, Lady Tigers 0, Five innings
Alcovy 000 00 - 0 5 1 Newnan 351 1x -10 12 0
WP - Tori Loveless LP - K. Johnson
2B - Leslie Davis 2, Chaycie Goggins, Lindsay Stewart