The Carrollton High School softball team is one win away from its fourth consecutive region crown.
After knocking off No. 6 Hiram and No. 2 Kell in a pair of bouts in the Region 7-AAAAA Tournament on Monday evening, the third-ranked and top-seeded Lady Trojans have advanced to Thursday's championship round, where they'll host the survivor from the loser's bracket and will have to be defeated twice to drop to the No. 2 seed for the Class AAAAA state playoffs.
Carrollton (23-1-1) knocked off the Lady Hornets in a 9-1, five-inning decision in the opener Monday and followed with a 3-1 victory over Kell, which is the only team to beat the Lady Trojans on the 2017 campaign.
Carrollton came out aggressive on offense in the first game versus Hiram (8-15). With two runners in scoring position in the bottom of the first, Olivia Fannin knocked home left fielder Montana Dallas with an RBI single to give them an early 1-0 lead.
With the game tied at one in the bottom of the second, the Lady Trojans reclaimed early control.
With Zahri Dunson and Ansley Barge already on base, an Aslinn Spradlin pop fly bounced off the glove of Lady Hornet right fielder Taylor Austin, allowing the two runners to score. Afterwards, Dallas would drive Spradlin home with an RBI single and later score herself to give the host team a 5-1 lead.
Up 6-1 in the bottom of the fifth, the middle of the Lady Trojan lineup would shut things down. After a Fannin RBI double drove home second baseman Carlie Monsour, an RBI triple from outfielder Scout Jennings would put yet another run on the board for Carrollton.
Finally, a Kate Albertus ground ball was mishandled by the Hiram shortstop, allowing for Jennings to score and for CHS to run-rule the Lady Hornets in five innings.
With Kell (14-5) knocking off Woodland, Cartersville, 8-3, in the next game, the Lady Trojans would engage in battle against a Lady Longhorn team that handed them their only loss of the season.
And the game would escalate into a pitcher's duel between Fannin and Kell sophomore Mia DeAngelis.
Runs and hits were hard to come by in the late game as the No. 1 and No. 2 seeds of the tournament battled each other to a scoreless stalemate for three innings. Things finally broke the Lady Trojans' way in the bottom of the fourth when Dallas led off with a triple and eventually scored on a wild pitch to give the home team a 1-0 advantage.
With two runners on and two outs in the following inning, she would drive home freshman Maddie Mashburn and Barge with a double to push Carrollton to a three-run lead.
But Kell would try to generate some offense of its own.
After pushing a run across in the top of the sixth, the Lady Longhorns would manage to get runners on in the top of the seventh. But key defensive plays by Barge and the rest of the CHS infield would extinguish the Kell rally and advance Carrollton straight to Thursday's championship round.
"Their pitcher is one of the best that we'll see all year," Phillips said. "We put balls in play and they were able to make some plays. Our kids kept pecking away at the plate and were able to get three runs while our defense showed up to play behind Olivia."
Managing to avoid the loser's bracket of the double-elimination tournament, Carrollton will now sit back and wait on whoever emerges victorious from Tuesday's games between Hiram, Kell, and Woodland. Having played these teams numerous times already, Phillips is confident her girls will be locked in against whoever they face come Thursday.
"Right now it just comes to down to the test of the will and the tenacity that each team brings," Phillips said. "I really like our team's focus right now. They have a goal in mind that they want to reach and they're playing really well right now."