After traveling to play against one of the best teams in the state, Etowah returned home with its biggest wins of the season.
The Lady Eagles beat North Gwinnett 2-0 and 8-4 last Wednesday night in Suwanee and shocked many softball fans around the state in the process. North Gwinnett entered the series with one loss on the season and ranked No. 2 in Class AAAAAAA, but Etowah left no doubt in the two-game sweep.
The Lady Eagles advanced to Columbus and to the final eight for just the second time in team history.
“It’s one of those shocks-the-world type of things,” Etowah coach Victoria Carter said.
“Going on the road, we were playing free. We talked about it all week. No one really expected us to move on and advance, so we were able to go out there and play loose.”
Although an upset in terms of rankings, Wednesday’s series was not a David-vs.-Goliath situation by any means.
Etowah (21-8) finished second in the regular season in the competitive Region 4AAAAAAA and was ranked No. 9 in Class AAAAAAA.
The Lady Eagles also have several college commits on their roster, including Paige Patterson (Mississippi), Alaina Smith (Clemson), Bri Condon (South Carolina), Hailey Shultz (Spring Hill) and Kendall Parks (Georgia Gwinnett).
“I definitely think we made a statement last night,” Carter said.
“It was a great environment, and my message to the girls after the game was just how proud I was of all of them. The string of messages we received last night, and even people stopping by this morning, it’s just a great environment of support here at Etowah.”
Etowah took the first game in a pitchers’ duel that saw junior Kinsey Norton shine brightest. Norton pitched a complete-game shutout while allowing five hits and striking out six.
Scoreless in the sixth, Condon gave Etowah a 1-0 lead with a solo home run and was followed in the seventh by Norton, who added a solo homer of her own. North Gwinnett managed to get a runner to second base with two outs in the final frame, but Norton induced a ground ball to Smith to end the game.
North Gwinnett scored a pair of runs in the first two innings of the second game, but the Lady Eagles’ bats responded with force.
A pair of four-run innings — one in the third and another in the fifth — gave Norton all the room she would need to pick up her second win of the evening and propel Etowah to the next round.
Abby Billings, Patterson and Norton each finished with two hits in the second game, while Bella Adams finished 1-for-2 with a team-high three RBIs.
Etowah will play at noon Thursday at the South Commons Softball Complex in Columbus against either South Forsyth or Peachtree Ridge.
The Lady Eagles’ made their first trip to Columbus in 2017, when they finished as the state runner-up. Carter said the experience gained by the older players who were on that 2017 team will be a positive this year.
“We’re going down Wednesday and we’ll practice at Columbus State, where I played college softball,” Carter said. “We talked a little bit last night about our mentality going down there. We want the kids to feel the grass and dirt, buy a T-shirt and do everything that comes with the environment down there. You’ve got to live in the moment and not be afraid of it.”