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Weekend good to Lady Cats

POSTED: September 3, 2014 11:00 a.m.

Apalachee’s Lady Wildcats took advantage of the long weekend and made the long drive down to beautiful Brunswick, Georgia. While there, however, the Cats did more than take in the sights. 

Coach Matt Allen’s Apalachee High School softball team took part in a tournament of teams from all over the state and wound up in second place after winning the first four games and losing the championship game to North Cobb 8-3.

Apalachee (8-6, 2-1 Region 8-AAAAA) allowed just five runs in four games with a 5-2 win over Glynn Academy and an 11-3 win over Calvary Day on Friday. They would go on to shut out Savannah Country Day 5-0 to start Saturday’s games, and they would continue the trend by blanking Calvary Day 4-0 in their second meeting of the tournament.

The rematch with Calvary Day served as the semifinals leading up to Apalachee’s meeting with North Cobb out of Region 4-AAAAAA in the Gold Division Championships. 

 Allen had much to praise his team for after the weekend tournament, including the improvement on defense. Earlier in the season, Apalachee committed six errors in a non-region loss to Winder-Barrow. 

Through the first two games on the weekend tournament, Apalachee had an aggregate of just five errors. 

“We’re a little bit better on defense now than we were at the first of the year because we’ve made some personnel decisions and put girls in places where they could be more successful,” Apalachee head softball coach Matt Allen explained.

Apalachee would actually get on the board first in the championship game against North Cobb with a 1-0 lead after just the first inning. North Cobb would eventually add a 3-run fourth inning and a 5-run fifth inning to go up 8-1 before Apalachee added a couple of runs in the bottom half of the fifth to make the final score. 

The most telling statistic from Apalachee’s loss, though, would have to be the eight runners left on base as compared to North Cobb’s one. 

“That’s something we did a good job of all weekend up until that North Cobb game. We got a lot of two-out hits the rest of the tournament,” Allen emphasized. “We just simply hit the ball right at folks and that’s definitely something we’re going to work on in practice and work on.

“We don’t have the kind of team that’s going to drive the ball and hit home runs so we have to sacrifice them over and…score them with some key base hits,” Allen added.

While Apalachee came home the silver medalist, they brought home a more important prize in Allen’s mind. The Lady Wildcats are now a much deeper team and a more confident team according to the head coach.

“I think that we got as much out of it with building confidence, not just our starters. Some of our girls who are normally substitutes got the chance to start or come out in key situations and get a big hit or use their glove to make a play,” Allen said. “We got a lot deeper as a team. That injury bug can bite you at any time…so the more players you have who are game ready and confident, the better off you are. It was a team effort.”

One of those injured players was Savannah Clark, but she has since returned and is back on the field for Apalachee. She is still getting back to full strength and is expected back at 100 percent very soon. 

Kaelani Wilson was the other main injury for Apalachee as she has been sitting out due to symptoms of a concussion for nearly two weeks now. Wilson should also be returning to the lineup soon, though, after she is cleared to play by a physician.

“They’ve taken the necessary precautions. I think our trainer does a great job of keeping our players healthy and keeping them safe, and we definitely have gone to great lengths to make sure that she will not only be able to play but that she won’t be sustaining any long term effects,” Allen pointed out.

Apalachee also relied on some of their younger pitchers throughout the tournament and actually gave lead pitcher Becca Meade some time off in the championship game in order to build confidence among the younger pitchers. In that way, Allen hopes, the other pitchers will continue to develop so they will be ready to go when the time comes that they are needed.

Altogether, the Lady Wildcats are continuously making strides towards their ultimate goal of improving and making it to the state playoffs.

“We are a much better team right now than we were on August 1st or even in that first scrimmage game. We’re playing with a lot more confidence. Part of that is because the girls are more used to how I do things and what I expect from them, but part of it is also from practice and repetition,” Allen said. “If we continue to improve throughout the season, then I think it sets up nicely for us to make a pretty good run.”

For the Lady Cats to make the playoffs, though, they will need to succeed in the region tournament and in the regular season. Apalachee currently sits on a 2-1 region record, but they will have the chance to improve upon that record Thursday with a region match-up at Winder-Barrow.

Ignoring the rivalry nature of Thursday’s game, postseason implications are high in this week’s meeting. Winder-Barrow has a 3-0 region record and would have a daunting 4-0 region record should they beat Apalachee Thursday. That would leave them just two wins away from grabbing one of those coveted top four spots.

The third and fourth place teams at the end of the regular season only need to win one game in order to advance to the state playoffs. The first and second place teams will already have a state playoff berth locked up tight at the end of the regular season, but they could improve their postseason ranking by succeeding in the region tournament.

Apalachee was third in the region last year, largely in light of beating Winder-Barrow and getting that extra push when it came down to tiebreakers. The Lady Doggs were actually fifth, but they defeated Flowery Branch at home in order to secure their spot in the state playoffs. 

“As far as region games go, it’s definitely the most important one we have because it’s the next one on our schedule,” Allen said. “Every region game is really important. If you take the rivalry out of it, the opportunity to go out there and be 3-1 at the halfway point would put us in great shape. The difference between 3-1 and 2-2 is huge.”

Then again, the nature of rivalry means that this game will mean a little bit more to the players, and that means it should be a fun game to take in. As for Coach Allen, he just wants to see the Lady Wildcats keep working towards the region tournament.

“All things being equal, it is Winder and that’s great,” Allen mentioned, “but we need to go out and get this one for seeding purposes.”

 

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