The McDonough-based Georgia Combat captured the 18-and-under Class A title and advanced to the ASA/USA national tournament in Johnson City, Tenn. Georgia Elite, comprised primarily of players from the eastern suburbs of Atlanta, won the 16-and-under Class A crown to reserve a spot at their national championship in Montgomery, Ala. Both tournaments will take place July 29-Aug. 5.
Georgia Elite swept through its competition and finished the tournament with a 5-0 mark. Elite outscored its opponents 52-20 en route to the title and gained its first national berth in five tries this season. It beat Georgia Power Academy TPS 12-5 in the championship final.
“We’re really excited to have the opportunity to participate in Montgomery,” Elite coach Jeff Caldwell said. “After a long and exciting series of qualifiers, we’re happy to be a team representing Georgia at ASA nationals.”
Elite’s five-game .440 batting average helped propel the team to victory. The team also received solid outings from Rylee Rogers, Ally Legette and Becca Adams in the circle, as well as strong defensive play on the field.
Elite beat the Georgia Prowlers (15-3), Georgia Power Blue (5-2), Georgia Gals (9-6) and the South Georgia Lady Sharks (11-4) en route to the title game.
“It was an awesome weekend,” Caldwell said. “We had high expectations coming into this tournament, and it all worked out. This was special to us. We wanted to win because one of our assistant coaches, Blaine Sorrow, went to school with Katie Kay’s son and is very familiar with the Kay family.”
Katie Kay, the tournament’s namesake and a longtime figure with softball in Georgia, died of breast cancer in February.
“We felt coming in that this would be a special weekend, and it was,” Caldwell added. “We reached our goal of winning and making it to nationals.
“We’re a really good-hitting team — that’s our makeup. But our pitching improved as well, and we cut down on our mistakes. We just had one of those weekends. Halie Sorrow batted .702 over the five games and (my daughter) Kensey (Caldwell) and Emily Snider hit .555. The girls got it done.”
Elite took a 3-0 advantage off a leadoff home run from Sorrow in the top of the first for the early margin, but Power Academy came right back to stake a 5-4 lead in the bottom of the fourth.
Elite broke the game open in the top of the fifth. Caldwell led off with a double and 12 more batters came to the plate to give Elite the big lead it needed.
Caldwell also noted the play of rising North Cobb senior Rachel Bartoe from an earlier tournament game against Georgia Power Blue. Blue had runners on first and second with one-out when Bartoe laid out to make a diving catch in right field before popping back up to double-up the runner from first for a double play.
What could have been a big inning for Blue turned into a game-changing play for Elite.
“As coaches, we believe that play was the pivotal play of the tournament,” Caldwell said. “To get that double play got everybody excited and focused and moved us forward through the rest of the tournament.”