COLUMBUS — An impressive playoff run that saw Etowah knock off the No. 2-ranked team in the state and advance to the final day of the state tournament came to an end Saturday afternoon.
Grayson won 4-0 on Saturday at the South Commons Softball Complex behind a dominant performance from junior pitcher Kylie Macie. The Georgia commit pitched a four-hit shutout and held Etowah’s bats at bay for the entire game.
The loss eliminated Etowah from the tournament, and the Lady Eagles finished their season at 24-10 and as the third-place team in Class AAAAAAA.
After the game, the team was presented a trophy and, through tears, the players were able to take a moment to appreciate an outstanding season.
“I just told them I love them,” Etowah coach Victoria Carter said. “I’m proud of them, and I love them. No one expected us to beat North Gwinnett, and we came down here and competed. Our girls didn’t fear anybody.”
Grayson (30-7) had beaten Etowah 6-0 on on Thursday, after the Lady Eagles won their first game of the tournament over Peachtree Ridge. In the consolation bracket, Etowah rallied to win games over North Forsyth on Friday night and Peachtree Ridge on Saturday morning to come within one game of playing for the state championship.
Behind Macie, Grayson used aggressive baserunning to chip away at Etowah pitcher Kinsey Norton.
The Lady Rams scored once in the first inning, once in the fourth and added its last two runs in the top of the fifth. Norton kept her team in the game, however, pitching out of a bases-loaded jam in the top of the fourth, but the Etowah offense could not quite gain the momentum needed to rally back.
“We didn’t hit it on the ground, like we should of been doing against her,” Etowah senior Paige Patterson said. “I tried to warn everybody that you have to have a certain mindset at the plate against (Macie). History kind of repeated itself.”
Alaina Smith finished 2-for-3, while Abby Billings and Patterson each finished with one hit.
The mood was somber as the players left the field and the finality of the moment began to take hold. It was the second visit to Columbus for Etowah in program history, following a state-runner up finish in 2017.
“I ask them to compete,” Carter said. “Always fight, always compete, no matter what the score is. We made a couple mistakes, and you can’t make mistakes in Columbus. That’s something to build on and learn from, but I think our seniors did a great job of setting a standard and getting us here. I’m very proud of this group.”
Etowah will lose four seniors in Patterson, Natalie Harper, Kendall Parks and Hailey Shultz. Carter said the experienced gained in Columbus will help the younger players on the team, whether they played or not, and Patterson said she would give her younger teammates a bit of advice as well.
“I’m just going to remember the feeling of excitement I got when a big play happened on the field,” Patterson said. “Those moments when it felt like we were a team.
“I’m going to tell the younger girls not to take it for granted because you never know how it’s going to turn out. The feelings that hits you when the ending is literally staring at your face. I don’t really remember much of what coach said after the game, but I’ll remember it was an amazing season.”
Etowah 9, Peachtree Ridge 2: With the first game of the day tied 2-2 after three innings, Etowah scored twice in the fourth and five times in the fifth to blow the game open.
Alaina Smith’s grand slam capped the five-run fifth as Etowah outhit Peachtree Ridge 11-3.
Natalie Harper and Kinsey Norton combined to strike out eight batters.
Smith finished 2-for-4 with three runs scored and five RBIs, while Molly Frost and Emma Yanes each added two hits.