The Bryan County softball team’s big run in the Class AA state tournament ended in the Final Four on Saturday in Columbus.
The Lady Redskins, who won their first two games of the Elite Eight, fell 5-2 to Vidalia — the thorn in their sides this season — on Friday and dropped a 3-1 decision to eventual state-champ Gordon Lee on Saturday.
Bryan County ended the season with a 29-12 record and, despite the excellent season, a little bit of “what if” pondering, as a lack of timely hitting hurt the squad in the end.
“I was very, very proud of it,” coach Al Butler said. “At the same time, disappointed we couldn’t pull that trigger.”
Against Vidalia, the Lady Redskins scored a run early — and could’ve had two, Butler said. However, Vidalia responded by taking the lead in the bottom of the first inning and took control. It was a painfully familiar theme for the Lady Redskins, who lost to the Lady Indians previously this season 2-0 in Vidalia and 3-2 in Pembroke.
“Going into the second inning, we were down, and we never rebounded,” Butler said. “We played our hardest, but Vidalia had our number all year long.”
That loss set up an elimination-game matchup with a powerhouse Gordon Lee squad that the Lady Redskins had stunned the day before. Gordon
Lee entered the Elite Eight with just one loss, but Bryan County doubled that total with a 1-0 win Oct. 29. However, on Saturday, it again was a case of BCHS falling behind early and not being able to catch up.
The Lady Redskins’ ace pitcher, Brooke Barfield — who will sign with Georgia Tech, BCHS announced Tuesday — struggled a bit more on Saturday than she did the first time she faced Gordon Lee, when she allowed one hit and struck out 12.
“Not saying she was tired by any means, but wasn’t as sharp,” Butler said. “Anytime you’ve seen somebody’s pitches for one full game, you do more things with them.”
Still, nothing can erase the memories of that first game with Gordon Lee, a “David vs. Goliath” matchup, as Butler said, in which Bryan County slung the rock at just the right time. In addition to pitching a gem, Barfield scored the only run by coming home from third on an error.
“It was pure joy and fun to watch their excitement,” Butler said of the players’ reaction to the big win.
In their first Elite Eight game, the Lady Redskins topped Seminole County 5-3 on Oct. 29. Barfield batted 3 for 4 and drove in two runs, while Layton Harrell had two hits and two runs batted in.
BCHS had a 5-0 lead, but had to hold off a late Seminole County charge.
Looking ahead to next season, the Lady Redskins will have some big spots to fill, starting with Barfield’s. However, there’s enough talent returning and some good players coming up to make another postseason berth a possibility.
“This is definitely a team coming back that can have the goal of making the playoffs. It’s just not going to be as easy, and they’re going to have to work a lot harder,” Butler said.
Gordon Lee finished off its championship run by beating Vidalia 3-1 and 14-1 on Saturday.
In other BCHS softball news, four Lady Redskins earned All-Region 2-AA honors, led by Barfield being named the Pitcher of the Year.
Layton Harrell, a senior, and Shelby Barfield, a sophomore, made the first team as infielders, and junior Alyssa Edwards made the second team as an outfielder.
Vidalia had the most players earn region honors with 10, including region Player of the Year Rebecca Lawrence.