By Mason Wittner with Times Georgian
The closest thing Carrollton High School head softball coach Lisa Phillips could compare it to was a 12-round boxing match.
That’s how Phillips described what unfolded when the Lady Trojans hosted East Paulding in the de facto Region 7-AAAAA championship series Tuesday night. Her club went toe-to-toe in the ring with the Lady Raiders, edging out a 7-6 win in the first leg of the doubleheader before delivering the late-round knockout with a 12-8 win in the nightcap.
The two teams combined for 47 hits over the two games, but in the end it was ultimately Carrollton’s offense that did enough to hold off East Paulding and secure the region crown.
“I’m just very proud of our kids,” Carrollton head coach Lisa Phillips said. “When you see teams four times in a year, it’s hard to beat them. It’s just a testament to our kids and how hard they work. I’m just very proud of them.”
As she’s been all season long, senior pitcher Olivia Fannin continued to be the workhorse in the circle for the Lady Trojans.
Fannin pitched back-to-back complete games, following up a 126-pitch performance in Game 1 with 124 pitches in the title-clinching contest. She was far from perfect, but she and junior catcher Kylee Robertson worked together to keep the Lady Raiders at bay when Carrollton needed it most.
“Our battery of Olivia and Kylee behind the plate did a tremendous job,” Phillips said. “Their hitters hit, but you still have to keep throwing pitches, throwing strikes. Olivia look some licks, but she continued to throw it in there and challenge them. Olivia wants the ball at all times, that’s just the type of competitor that she is. And we’re going to give it to her until somebody says she shouldn’t have it.”
Here’s how things unfolded in each of Carrollton’s two victories:
Game 1 — Carrollton 7, East Paulding 6
Following a quick defensive inning in the top of the first, the Lady Trojans came to the plate swinging early in the home half of the frame.
Carrollton loaded the bases with just one out away before junior Katie Albertus brought in the first run of the game on a sacrifice fly to deep center field. East Paulding then issued back-to-back walks to built its deficit up to 2-0.
In the third inning, the Lady Trojans tacked on to their lead on a sacrifice groundout back to the pitcher.
East Paulding quickly flipped the switch, however, and powered its way back into the game in the fourth inning.
With nobody out, Kyra Lightner ripped an RBI triple to left field to spoil the shutout. The big hit was probably followed by a run-scoring error, and the Lady Raiders later tied the game up on Kyle Manning’s two-out RBI single to right field.
In the fifth inning, East Paulding broke the tie when Maggie O’Kelley crushed a two-run shot to deep left field to put the Trojans down 5-3.
A wild pitch pulled the Lady Trojans back within one run with one out away in the fifth inning. With two outs away later in the frame, Carrollton senior Zahria Dunson turned on a 3-2 pitch and crushed a two-run home run to deep left field to put her team ahead, 6-5.
The Lady Raiders came back to tie things up yet again in the top of the sixth, but the final blow was dealt by the Lady Trojans later in the frame when junior Scout Jennings swung on the first pitch she saw and belted a leadoff home run to straightaway center to make it 7-6.
Game 2 — Carrollton 12, East Paulding 8
Fresh off a thrilling victory in the opening game, the Lady Trojans jumped out to an early lead in the second leg of Tuesday’s doubleheader.
Following a first-pitch out, junior Maddie Mashburn and Jennings reached base and moved into scoring position on a wild pitch. Senior Olivia Fanning then drove in Mashburn with an RBI single before Jennings came home on a wild pitch.
Carrollton would finish the opening frame with four runs and tack on two more in the second before exploding for six in the fifth inning to take a 12-3 lead.
On the verge of being mercy-ruled, the Lady Raiders were twice down to their final strike before back-to-back RBI singles in the fifth inning kept them alive.They’d use a two-run single to pull within 12-7 heading to the sixth.
East Paulding still wasn’t done, leading off the sixth inning with a double and later driving in its final run of the game on a sacrifice fly.
But Carrollton eventually held on, using a 1-2-3 seventh inning to close the door and claim the region title.