COLUMBUS -- At the state championship level, the game of fast-pitch softball is about taking advantage of your opportunities.

Thursday night, Sprayberry did. Lowndes didn't. Final score: Sprayberry 3, Lowndes 1.

The loss sent the Lady Vikings (25-3) into the elimination bracket of the Class AAAAA state tournament. Lowndes will play Stockbridge, a 4-2 loser to Walton, at 11 a.m. today in the shadows of the Columbus Softball Complex's stadium field.

For the Lady Vikings to play in the stadium, they need to win three games Friday. For them to win a state title, they will also need to win three games Saturday.

"We made some uncharacteristic mistakes," said Lowndes High head coach Nick Petro. "They had a good pitcher and we hit their pitcher. But we couldn't score any runs.

"The pressure is on us now to go out and play the game."

Sprayberry (24-6) got to Lowndes twice. It sent eight batters to the plate in the third, scoring all three of its runs. Two more runners were stranded in the fourth.

Otherwise, Lowndes pitcher Sara McMichael didn't allow a runner past first base, retiring the last eight batters she faced.

Whitney Fawin opened the third with an infield single. She was moved to second on a bunt and scored on Lauren Rutledge's double to right-center. Jenna Sexton's single moved Rutledge to third.

When Sexton stole second, the throw sailed into center field and Rutledge came home. Sexton scored on Haley Buck's single.

"They played the game of fast-pitch softball. We got people on with two outs and couldn't get going," Petro said.

Janet Kearns, a summer teammate of Lowndes' Jade Jarvis and Kelly Summers, struck out nine while allowing only seven Lady Viking runners.

"I give a lot of credit to Janet. Lowndes can hit the ball, they all swung the bat," said Sprayberry coach Lawrence Erwin. "I think that's the fewest strikeouts she's had all year long.

"You just don't walk out and beat a Lowndes team."

Jarvis had the most success, going 3-for-3 for half of Lowndes' hits.

She got to second with one out in the fourth, but was stranded. Her two-out hit in the sixth started a rally. Amy Gaiss also singled and Kristin McLeod's single off the first-base bag scored Jarvis.

Lauren Lineberger had a one-out hit in the seventh, but pinch-runner Hillary Martin couldn't get past first.

"If we could have got some people on base and got Jade back up, we could have won the game," Petro said.

Lowndes' loss was part of an 0-for-3 day for the South Sectional teams which qualified last weekend in Valdosta. The fourth team, Fayette County, took defending champion Harrison into extra innings. The game was not completed at press time.

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Cook split its two games in the Class AAA/AA slow-pitch tournament also being played in Columbus. Cook beat Bleckley County, 7-3, before losing to Appling County, 3-0.

Cook will play in an elimination game at noon today vs. Brantley County or West Laurens. Irwin County won twice to play in the winner's bracket final vs. Appling County at 4 p.m. today.



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