These two teams are eerily similar, from team records all the way to style of play:
n Both teams have records of 23-6-1 and both are ranked in the state in Class AAA — Thomson is No. 9 while Spalding is No. 10.
n Both teams hosted their first-round state playoff series (Spalding as region champs and a No. 1 seed, Thomson as a 2-seed in Region 3) and swept both their games in similar fashion: Thomson defeated Shaw 9-4 and 13-0 while Spalding sent Cairo packing by scores of 9-1 and 11-0.
Lady Jags head coach Rusty Hudson said his team will be in for a battle and expects a low-scoring series.
“Thomson has three good pitchers they can rotate and have three to four girls who can swing the bats well, especially their shortstop,” he said. “I don’t expect to see a lot of runs. It’s going to come down to who makes the least mistakes.”
In Spalding’s first series against Cairo, the Lady Jags didn’t make many mistakes at all. On offense, they showed patience at the plate, coaxing several walks from the Cairo pitchers. In fact, Spalding walked nine times in Game 2. And when it came time to get the big hits, the Lady Jags came through with RBI hits throughout the lineup. Lady Jags who came through included center fielder Cember Carmichael (a 2-run double in Game 1), first baseman Ansley Jinks (double in Game 2) and starting pitcher Emily Vaughn (RBI single in Game 1, double in Game 2).
Vaughn is turning into a threat on both the mound and at the plate and if she keeps her hot hitting up, Spalding will be a tough team to beat.
The junior pitched a perfect game in Game 2 against Cairo — 15 players came up and 15 were sent back down. She also had four strikeouts in that game to go along with two runs scored and the double at the plate. She also hit a shot to short that was bobbled for a 2-run error in Game 1.
Of course, the table setter for the Lady Jags is sophomore second baseman Mallory O’Kelley. Whether she’s batting ninth or leadoff, the young lefty has a knack for getting on base — either from a walk or a hit down the lines. Spalding also has been doing the little things to manufacture runs, getting sacrifice bunts from Sarah Hemphill and Lakeria Hastings that move runners over and even running the bases well, which Hudson said was a team weakness at the start of the season. The key for Spalding is to be patient and not get frustrated at the plate and play good defense.
“That’s the thing with Thomson; if one of their pitchers is faltering, they won’t hesitate to throw in the other two,” Hudson said.
The winner of this weekend’s series will advance to the Elite Eight in Columbus, Ga., where it will face the Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe/Elbert County winner on Thursday, Oct. 22 at 3:30 p.m. The winner of that game will play again in the winner’s bracket at 7:30 p.m. The loser of the 3:30 game will drop to the loser’s bracket and play Friday at 9 a.m.