The Lady Eagles rode that momentum through the 5AAAAAA tournament last week, winning four straight games including three one-run affairs to claim a region championship.
“The girls just kept getting better all year long,” said Milton softball coach Shane Holcombe. “We ran into some tough teams early in the season, but we continued to improve and fought to get better each week. All the credit goes to the girls; they’ve done a great job.”
Milton (17-5-2 overall) was 6-5-2 following a mid-season loss to Cherokee that dropped them to 2-3 in region play. Holcombe said a win over Wheeler followed and a strong showing at their host tournament in late September — which they won — sparked the team towards a stretch run.
The Lady Eagles beat Woodstock 8-5 early last week to sew up a state playoff spot, beat Etowah 2-1 to advance to the title series then swept region-favorite Cherokee (3-2 and 2-1) to win the championship.
“The Milton Tournament really showed the girls we could beat anybody we played. I really saw some fire from our group at that point and we haven’t looked back,” Holcombe said.
“We got great pitching and defense that put us in positions to win ball games last week and played some small ball on offense.”
Sophomore pitchers Kristina Brown and Cate Gibson have shared the glory in the circle with Holcombe labeling them both as interchangeable aces. Brown started in the region win over Woodstock with Gibson bringing home the final three in the region tournament.
“The thing I love about both of them is that they just find a zone out there, they get in their own world and take care of business,” said the Milton coach.
Milton will ride their pitching duo into the first round of the state playoffs against Parkview — the No. 4 seed from 8AAAAAA. A best-of-three series will be played with a double-header schedule tonight and a third game to be played if necessary tomorrow.
Parkview (17-14-1) has had a season that can be seen as a mirror opposite to Milton’s. Starting red-hot, the Lady Panthers were winners of 10 of their first 11 and soared into the top 10 of the AAAAAA state rankings, but September and the stretch run weren’t nearly as kind — losing 11 of their last 18.
“We just have to ride the momentum now. Play hard and take it to Parkview before they can deliver it to us.”