TIFTON -- With three state championships since 2000, a No. 5 finish in the national tournament in 2001 and a No. 9 finish in the nationals in 2002, the Abraham Baldwin Fillies softball team did something unusual last season. The Fillies did not win the state title and they did not advance to the national tournament.

ABAC hopes to change all of that tomorrow when the Fillies open play in the Region XVII state softball tournament at the North Campus Softball Complex at Valdosta State University.

The Fillies will enter the tournament as the No. 4 seed. They will open play against the No. 5 seed, Georgia Perimeter at 3 p.m.

Perimeter fell to the No. 5 seed after having a chance to be the No. 1 seed. However, two losses Tuesday to Young Harris sent the Lady Jaguars down in the seeding.

Other tournament participants include Young Harris, the No. 1 seed; Middle Georgia, No. 2; Coastal Georgia, No. 3; and Darton, No. 6.

Coastal and ABAC tied with 10-6 league records, but Coastal won the tie-breaker due to scoring more runs when the teams played each other. Those contests saw ABAC win 1-0, but Coastal took a 3-1 victory.

"I feel good about it. I think we are peaking at the right time," said ABAC coach Donna Campbell.

The ABAC coach went on to add, "this conference has gotten really tough over the past couple of years. Young Harris is the No. 1 seed, but they ended up with four losses on the year, including one to us."

To get to the state crown, the Fillies will have to rely on the pitching of sophomore Elske ten Hoope and freshman Kate Thompson.

Both are among the statistical leaders in the conference.

Going into this week, ten Hoope was fourth in the league with a 0.96 ERA. In 139 1/3 innings of work, she had allowed 88 hits, struck out 98 and walked 14.

The sophomore's top performance this year came April 17 against Young Harris when she allowed only one hit in a 7-0 victory.

Thompson came into the week with a 2.08 ERA. She had pitched 114 2/3 innings, allowed 109 hits, struck out 90 and walked 20.

The freshman won her last two games by a shutout, 1-0 over Georgia Perimeter and 8-0 over Gordon College.

"We are going to go as far as our pitching can take us. Kate has been phenomenal over her past three games and Elske has been our workhorse. She has pitched well all season," said Campbell.

ABAC will have to rely on the pitching as Stefanie ten Hoope entered the week as the only Fillie with a batting average over .300 batting .305 on the season.

"We will have to win on our pitching and defense. We have a lot of sophomores and I am expecting them to step up and produce big for us in the field," said Campbell.

"If we are strong with our defense and pitching, we will just have to manufacture a few runs and I believe we can do that."

After all is said and done in the tournament, the ABAC coach feels like the tournament winner will be, "the team that plays the hardest. I just hope it is us."

The Valdosta State field is located behind Billy Grant Field in Valdosta.

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