MARIETTA — Pope did not need long to advance to the second round of the Class AAAAAA state playoffs as it took only 10 innings to complete a two-game sweep of Habersham Central on Tuesday in a first-round series Tuesday.
Pope needed five innings to win the first game 9-0, then needed only five more to clinch the nightcap 12-1 and advance to the second round, when it will host South Effingham next Tuesday.
The Lady Greyhounds (28-2) banged out a combined 19 hits to go with its 22 runs in the two games, hitting four home runs in Game 2, including three in the fourth inning.
“We work a lot on working at-bats,” Pope coach Ellie Viland said. “It might not show the first time through the lineup, but we always talk about making adjustments and really focusing on that next at-bat, seeing what the pitcher’s got and coming through that second and third time in the order. The girls have done an unbelievable job of that and committing to that approach.”
Leading the Pope offensive assault was Jadyn Laneaux, who celebrated her 17th birthday in grand fashion by going a combined 6-for-6 with two home runs and two RBIs, getting on base in every plate appearance. She also had three stolen bases in Game 2.
Pope also got a strong performance from pitcher Kendall Frost, who threw a one-hit shutout in the opener and then came back to pitch three strong innings in the nightcap, only giving up a hit in that contest. Ellie Paley pitched two innings of strong relief, allowing only one hit.
Leading 3-1 in the second game, Pope broke the game open with five runs in the top of the fourth inning — fueled by three homers — and four more runs in the fifth to wrap up the win and the series sweep.
Peyton McCormack began the fourth with a solo homer. Laneaux followed two hitters later with a two-run homer — her second of the series — to increase the Lady Greyhounds’ lead to 6-1.
A homer by Katie Ward made it 7-1, while Kate East’s double scored Natalie Klingler to boost Pope’s advantage to 8-1.
“It was a fun inning,” Viland said. “We were hitting around the park. We really love each other and being able to pass those at-bats down is really, really special. It was fun for them.”
The final blow was administered by Kailey Martin, who blasted a grand slam in the top of the fifth to put the finishing touches on the sweep.
Leading 4-0 in the opening game — with Laneaux’s homer in the third inning being one of the key blows — Pope sent eight hitters in the bottom of the fifth inning as it scored five runs on five hits.
Kayla Keller singled to score Ward, Paley hit a single that scored Martin and Keller and Leneaux’s triple brought in courtesy runner Sam Tener — running for Paley — and Emily Ricci to close the game.