Despite successful seasons in 2008 and '09, in which it won its subregion and a top seed in the Region 7AAAA tournament, Allatoona failed to earn one of the four playoff spots from its region and had to watch as other teams made the state tournament in its absence.
That all changed this season, and in a big way.
The Lady Buccaneers not only made the state playoffs for the first time, this time out of Class AAA, they also won their playoff games and reached the state finals in Columbus.
And they weren't satisfied with making it to the finals. After falling into the losers' bracket and faced with each game being an elimination game, Allatoona wouldn't be denied and advanced all the way to the championship game, where it eventually lost a 12-11 decision to White County.
Allatoona's postseason stretch was never easy. Once again, it was the No. 1 seed in the region tournament, but failed to win the title. Faced with adversity along the way, the Lady Buccaneers (28-10) never wavered, producing their best season in the history of the program, culminating in the state runner-up finish.
For leading his team to a state runner-up finish in its first state playoff appearance, Allatoona coach Troy Pirkle is the 2010 Marietta Daily Journal/Cobb County Softball Coach of the Year.
"This year, we finally put it all together," Pirkle said. "We came up short of the region title for the third year in a row, and I think that put us in a situation where we had to prove we were better than that."
For Pirkle and his Lady Buccaneers, that moment came in its first-round playoff series at Riverwood.
"We finally qualified for the playoffs," he said, "and in the middle of that Riverwood series, it just clicked. Ever since then, we probably played the best softball we've ever played in the three years of the program."
After splitting its first two games against Riverwood, Allatoona trailed 7-0 in the decisive third game before battling back to win 13-7 and advance.
From that point on, the Lady Buccaneers rolled. They defeated then-No. 1 Oconee County in three games, highlighted by two come-from-behind wins, and continued to progress through the state finals and to the championship game.
In all, Allatoona faced six elimination games during its run and won five of them.
"Basically, our seniors said, 'We're not going to go out like this,'" Pirkle said of when they were trailing Riverwood. "We just kept rolling and qualified for Columbus. When we got down there, we felt like we had as good a shot as anybody, and we played well."
The Lady Buccaneers went 4-2 at the state finals, with both of the losses coming by one run.
"Once we got past the first round, it was a huge relief for all of us," Pirkle said. "Once we won that first-round series against Riverwood, we relaxed. Once we relaxed, we took the approach that it's going to take a lot for the same team to beat us twice, and we never did lose to the same team twice."
Allatoona also benefited from having talented players. With Caitlin O'Shea in the circle and the core of Jessica Finch, Tressa Watson, Stephanie Watts, Kaitlin Chumley, Lyndsey York, Megan Nesbit and Bre Richey batting and playing defense, the Lady Buccaneers played hard to win every game.
"It wasn't one kid," Pirkle said. "It was different kids each game. We were able to produce throughout the lineup, and in this game, if you can do that, you're going to be tough to beat, and we were."