SNELLVILLE — Tift County’s softball season came to end Tuesday. The Lady Devils were defeated in two games by Brookwood in the first round of the state tournament.
“I’m proud of them,” said head coach Taylor Barber, whose team made its first state appearance since 2015. “We’ve grown up so much and had a lot of adversity thrown our way.”
Brookwood took the opener in a walk-off, 4-3, eight-inning affair. The second contest ended 13-4.
“I thought we had them,” said Barber of the first game.
Brookwood found a groove in the second game. Players often say the ball appears bigger when they are dialed in. “They started to see it like a beach ball,” he said of the Lady Broncos’ performance in the nightcap.
Tift scored all of their runs in the first inning in the second game.
Macy Hand struck a one-out double, then moved to third when Bailee Williams reached on an error. Hand came in on a passed ball, then Josie Bullington doubled in Williams.
“Josie was unbelievable,” he said of Bullington’s day. Besides the double in this game, she had three hits, including a homer, in the opener.
Gracee Wood singled before Loralee Bennett doubled in two runs.
“We’re cooking with fire and got hot early,” said Barber, “and then we didn’t have a hit the rest of the game.”
After a run in the first, Brookwood scored five in the third inning, the big blow being a grand slam by Olivia Rogozinski. Two more multi-run innings followed to wrap it up.
Paige Hill led off the first game with a home run. Single runs followed in the fourth and sixth. Bullington pulled Tift to a 2-2 tie in the fourth with a blast. They went up 3-2 when Wood doubled in Bullington.
That held until two outs in the seventh when Brookwood loaded the bases. Morgan Hall fouled off six straight pitches before being hit by one. A single, sac bunt and another single in the eighth gave the Lady Broncos the win.
Barber wishes they could have gotten at least one win in state. That doesn’t take away from how they’ve played during the season. “They stuck their nose down and kept fighting and scratching,” he said. Tift finished with 14 wins in 2020, double what they had in 2019.
Besides Bullington’s four-hit day, the Lady Devils got two each from Hill, Wood and Bennett. Bennett and Hill drove in two runs each and Bullington brought home three.
In the midst of the Brookwood series, Tift County got an unexpected boost.
Region 1 teams are rivals, but supportive. They’ve long cheered on one another in games against schools in the northern half of the state. That was the case again Tuesday.
Camden County played at Grayson, 10 miles from Brookwood. Grayson took two quick wins, but instead of spending the rest of the day at the hotel, Camden hopped on the bus and drove to Brookwood to give Tift County additional support.
“I look up,” said Barber. “We’re up 2-1 in the bottom of the first.” From his position in the third base coaching box, he spots something at the gate. “Everybody comes in the gate in left field and their entire team and coaching staff is walking in the gate and sit on our side and support the girls.”
Tift already had a crowd in Snellville. With the Camden additions, they outnumbered the Brookwood fans.
“At the end of the day, that says a lot about our region as a whole and how close all of us are,” he said.
The series ended the season, but a new one is beginning. The Lady Devils will be back in the weight room soon. Several will be playing travel ball this winter and next spring. Barber’s already counting down the days for the 2021 season. June is only eight months away.