It’s not often a team generates momentum off a loss — a pair of losses actually — but Richmond Hill softball coach Chris Jenkins believes his team got a shot in the arm despite losing a doubleheader last Thursday to Colquitt County.
The Region 1-7A twin bill with the Packers concluded regular season play for the Wildcats (9-14, 4-7) who will next play as a No. 4 seed in the GHSA Class 7A state tournament Super Regional Oct. 16-17 against host Brookwood (18-5-1). The other two teams in the field which constitutes the first two rounds of the state playoffs are Campbell and Harrison. Lowndes finished as the Region 1 champion with Colquitt taking second. Camden and Richmond Hill tied for third but Camden held the tie-breaker and earned the No. 3 seed.
Bryan County, meanwhile, will be a No. 4 seed in the Class A-D1 playoffs after finishing fourth in Region 3A-D1 behind Screven County, Metter and Claxton. The Redskins (15-10, 1-5) will be at East Laurens on Oct. 17-18. The other two teams in the Super Regional field are yet to be determined.
The Redskins were an Elite Eight team last year after winning the region and the Super Region. However, they lost heavily to graduation and Coach Jason Roundtree knew this was going to be a season of growth and development.
Roundtree has had to rely on a pair of sophomore pitchers in Eris Deal and Abigail Lee and freshman Emily Johnson. All had heir moments and showed excellent potential, especially Johnson who is a power pitcher with a physical presence in the circle.
Bryan County closed regular season play with wins over Bradwell Institute and Calvary Day School and Roundtree is hoping that momentum will carry over. In the 14-6 win over Bradwell sophomore shortstop Liz Harvey hit a pair of home runs including a grand slam.
Jenkins is wrapping up his third year at Richmond Hill and is optimist about how his young team will perform. Richmond Hill had guaranteed itself a spot in the playoffs when it swept a three-game series with Valdosta.
The Wildcats played Colquitt tough in losing 5-3 and 9-5 and the first game defeat was a particularly tough pill to swallow.
Richmond Hill carried a 3-1 lead into the seventh inning only to see Colquitt score four times, the winning blow being a two-out three-run homer by shortstop Carli Pearson to spoil a strong outing by sophomore pitcher Adriana Williams.
In the nightcap the Packers got four runs in the first against sophomore Bria Milledge, added one in the second and it was an uphill battle from there.
Jenkins, however, said he liked what he saw of his team’s competitiveness. “Even though we didn’t find a way to win the second game the fact we showed up and battled after a heart-breaking loss in the first game says a lot for them,” Jenkins said of his team. “Going into the playoffs I think we have a chance to sneak up on some people.”
The Wildcats got a shot in the arm in the second game from unheralded freshman pitcher Ahnalyah Estevez who made her varsity debut with an impressive relief performance.
Estevez came on at the start of the third inning and held the Packers in check while the Wildcats battled back to within 5-3. Colquitt managed three runs in the sixth to secure the win but Estevez more than held her own.
“She’s been pitching jayvee all year,” Jenkins said. “She was the only pitcher on the jayvee team and she had to go out there and battle every game.
“There were games where they (jayvee team) did a great job behind her and there were games when they struggled but she battled through it. I thought she did a great job against Colquitt.”
Freshman third baseman Aubrey Ragins had another solid game in the nightcap as had an unassisted double play in the first inning and then started an inning ending double play in the fifth. She also had a line drive double off the left field fence.
Another freshman, Ainsley Washington, had a home run to deep center.
“Aubrey makes the routine plays,” Jenkins said, “and she makes the tough plays look easier than what they really are. We’ve got some good young players with potential.”