All those seasons ending in frustration. Losing so many seniors off last year’s roster. Carrying the label of underdog from the outset this season.
No worries. The Lady Wolverines outclassed and outplayed all challengers en route to winning the Class 5-A Georgia High School Association softball championship over the weekend.
Union Grove made Pope its final victim, topping the Lady Greyhounds — 1-0 and 4-3 — in the double elimination tourney.
“We’re going to savor this for a while,” said Union Grove coach Rod Pipkin. “Right now, we’re in the process of ordering championship rings and T-shirts.
“We’ll probably savor this … until the calendar turns.”
Who could blame them? Nothing came easy during the Lady Wolverines postseason run.
The team fought its way out of the loser’s bracket in the championship round — after a 1-0 loss to Pope the day before — by downing Whitewater 7-1. Then came the rematch couplet with the Greyhounds.
With Union Grove senior hurler Megan Betsa pitching yet another gem, sophomore Meredith Rye scored on a Pope wild pitch in extra innings in the first game for the win.
The title clinching game featured the highlight of the season.
Union Grove erased a 0-2 deficit in the bottom of the fifth inning as Brittani Crawford, Jackie Tanner, Madison Moore and Katie Spinks all reached home plate.
With the Wolverines up 4-3 in the top of the seventh, Spinks crashed into the wall to snag what would have been Pope slugger Ellyn Strother’s game-tying homerun — later holding the ball up while prostrate, movie-style, to confirm the out.
Betsa struck out the next two batters to give Union Grove the school’s first state crown in any team sport.
“[Afterward], I told the players it was a total team win,” Pipkin recalled. “Besides Betsa’s pitching, it took everybody else making the outs, cheering and supporting, running the bases well … and the rest is history.
“They did everything we asked them to do and it was fun, a lot of fun.”