Softball history in the making

Valiants sweep Spartans, advance for 1st time in program history

HAHIRA — There’s no shortage of swagger to this year’s Valwood softball team.

The No. 1-seeded Valiants dance around the dugout and belt out lyrics to their favorite songs that play over the PA system. 

They bring that same swagger to the diamond.

Valwood earned a 9-4 victory in Game 1 and a 9-1 Game 2 win to sweep No. 4 Edmund Burke Academy in a GISA Class 3A state playoff doubleheader at Hollis Field on Tuesday afternoon, capturing the first state playoff wins in program history.

“We’re excited. They said this was the first time in Valwood history that we’ve won a playoff game, so we’re super excited,” coach Courtney Carter said.

Fresh off a GISA Region 3-3A championship, Valwood (12-3) stayed hot to begin the postseason. After watching the visiting Spartans score a run in their first turn at bat in Game 1, the home team responded swiftly.

Brittany Hasty singled and advanced to second on a passed ball, then Ansley Bennett doubled her home to tie things. Starting pitcher Darcee Brown followed with a triple and later scored on a sacrifice fly. The Valiants left one runner aboard, but closed the inning with a 3-1 lead they would not surrender.

“It usually does take one hitter to get it started, and then they just pass it down and keep it going,” Carter said. “So once we get the momentum, we keep it going, but we’ve got to work on when we don’t necessarily have momentum to get those extra bases and extra hits whenever we can take them.”

Bennett doubled home two runners in the fourth and Clare Nijem later scored on an error to pull Valwood ahead 6-1.

Edmund Burke’s Claudia Post singled in a runner in the fifth before Makayla Barfield scored two runners on a double as the Spartans had two outs on the board to narrow the gap to 6-4.

Ansley Haskard helped the Valiants pull away again in the bottom of the inning. She hit a bases-loaded single to score Mary Clare Martin and Lindsey Browning. The Spartans minimized the damage in the frame by ending it with a double play.

Emily Taylor stole home in the bottom of the sixth to make up the final tally.

Valwood 9

EBA 1

Valwood scored three runs in the third and five in the fourth en route to a 9-1 triumph in Game 2 of Tuesday’s first-round playoff doubleheader.

“It’s always tough to come in as a 1-seed and play a 4 and to bring your ‘A’ game, so it’s nice to see that and their excitement. I just hope we carry this excitement on to Saturday,” Carter said.

Haskard singled home Braxton Hill and two more Valiants scored on errors to take a 3-0 advantage.

Spartans’ shortstop Malana Williams singled in the bottom of the third and later scored on a sac-fly to cut it to 3-1.

But Valwood piled on insurance runs in the fourth to protect its lead. Hasty scored on a fielder’s choice before two more scored the same way. Haskard singled to shallow center and scored Brianna Fosdick to extend the lead to 7-1.

Hill doubled home Haskard after Edmund Burke made a pitching change.

As the Valiants advance to the second round, Carter said her team will continue strengthening its defensive play.

“There’s always room to improve there, and then, of course, hitting. Each batter has those little things they need to work on and that’s what we’re concentrating on this week,” she said.

UP NEXT

Valwood hosts the winner of the John Milledge-Trinity Christian-Sharpsburg series at Hollis Field on Saturday for a best-of-three series. First pitch of Game 1 is still to be determined.

“I think it’ll be a tough game on Saturday, but we’re looking forward to it. We have a week’s worth of practice that we still get to see; so that’ll be nice,” Carter added.

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