ABAC Fillies win GCAA softball title

May 3—TIFTON — Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College's Fillies won the GCAA softball championship Friday, walking off a 3-2 eight-inning victory on a Dylana Barton infield single.

"I'm really, really happy with this group," said Reed Saturday morning, a few hours after his team clinched the crown at Georgia Highlands' campus in Cartersville.

Reed's crown is particularly sweet. A longtime assistant, this is his first year as head coach of the Fillies. The crew he led this year was a very young one.

"You start a season with 19 freshmen, you hope they buy into the process," he said. Indeed they did. "The sophomore leadership was small, but it was some of the best sophomore leadership I've ever seen. They led these young ladies and they bought in to what we were trying to do."

The title comes with a little bonus: ABAC will host the Mid-Atlantic district tournament May 8-9 against Florence-Darlington Tech. There will be a doubleheader on the first day and an "if" game on the second.

In the other dugout will be either Gaston College or Florence-Darlington Tech. The combined Region 10-15-20 championship was to be determined Saturday morning.

In the finale against Gordon State, the bases were loaded with no outs in the bottom of the eighth for Barton, whose single brought home Akayla Matthews, who had been brought in as a pinch runner for Ava Roland.

Barton hit a grounder to shortstop, but Matthews beat the throw to the plate for the winning run. It was was just enough of an in-between hop, said Reed, that Matthews made it.

Roland reached to start the inning. Attempts at small-ball led to singles by Ashley Archibald and Trinity Odom that finished putting Gordon State in an impossible position before Barton stepped up.

It was a comeback win for ABAC, who trailed 2-0 going into the bottom of the seventh. Reed described as "typical ABAC-Gordon softball."

He praised the pitching of Gordon State's Taylor Beigle. "She was awesome," he said.

Down but not out, the Fillies built momentum on a one-out single by Elli Bryan.

Lexi Metts doubled in Bryan for the first run, then provided the tying run on a two-bagger by Laney McGee.

McGee stood at third with two outs but Gordon State escaped the inning with the tie. "A hard hit ball," he said of the third out, "but right at somebody."

Jaci Smiley earned victory, pitching 5 1/3 innings in relief of Kaylee Barrett.

The No. 3 seed, ABAC swept the tournament. The Fillies held on to win a 3-2 upset over Georgia Military College in the opener, then reached the finals with an 8-0 win over East Georgia State.

Gordon State, the No. 1 team, battled through the second chance bracket after falling to East Georgia State in the opening round. Gordon beat GMC, then got revenge over East Georgia in the semis.

The Lady Highlanders needed to win two straight to win the championship, but ABAC cut the drama to only a single game.

Though No. 3, Reed said there was very little difference in the top three seeds. ABAC was in striking distances not long ago. He said each team seemed to handle one well and have difficulties with the other.

The championship is sweet, but at the same time a bit bittersweet. ABAC moves from the GCAA and NJCAA to the NAIA this summer. Reed has known the opponents and coaches from the other schools well.

They will still know each other, but in a different role. With a four-year program, Reed may find his way back to GCAA fields to scout players for the Fillies.