For the FPD, Stratford and Tattnall Square softball programs, the final weekend of October means a trip to Columbus, playing in the GHSA Elite Eight.
All three made it to Columbus in the two seasons in which they have all been members of the GHSA, with Stratford finishing second to Eagle’s Landing Christian last year and FPD finishing third behind ELCA and Prince Avenue Christian two years ago.
To return to Columbus this year, those three teams will have to win second-round playoff series this week. But all three enter postseason play among the top teams in the Class 1A private school power ratings, earning first-round byes in the 24-team bracket.
Third-seeded FPD hosts Holy Innocents in a best-of-three series, while No. 4 seed Tattnall hosts Darlington and No. 5 seed Stratford hosts Brookstone. All three series open with Wednesday doubleheaders, with Game 3s slated for Thursday.
“It’s really important (to get back to Columbus),” FPD catcher Allie Parkerson said. “We made it there the past three years, and I think the fourth year is finally going to get us a state championship. I really feel like this year we’re prepared more than the
previous years, and we feel more confident.”
At FPD, where Kristy Alvarez took over from longtime head coach Jim Turner following Turner’s retirement from coaching, the Vikings have enjoyed another strong season. They are first in the Score Atlanta Class 1A private school rankings, and they went undefeated in Region 7A-1A before falling to crossover opponent GMC in the championship game of the region tournament.
The Vikings (25-4) have 34 home runs, with Parkerson, a senior, accounting for 14 while batting .602. FPD uses two pitchers, with sophomore Karsen Ochs sitting at 14-1 with 144 strikeouts and senior Carli Sutton sitting at 10-2.
“They are very close to each other, and they have a really good team chemistry,” Alvarez said. “I really think that’s the difference in how we’re doing. They really support each other and trust each other, and they work hard for each other. They want to win, not just for themselves but for the entire team.”
Tattnall (21-7) has a young roster, with one senior and six ninth-graders making up the 13-player varsity squad. One of those freshmen, Jaelyn Darley, is leading the team with a .500 batting average. Junior Allie Gordon is batting .478 with five home runs and 30 RBI. The lone senior, Kristen Johnson, is at .429 with four homers and 17 RBI. Pitcher Ashleigh Morton, a junior, is 12-5 with a 1.37 ERA.
Stratford (19-5) is paced by senior Alyssa Orona, batting .456 with four homers and 22 RBI, and junior Tori Dover, who has four home runs, 38 RBI and a .449 average. Dover is also the Eagles’ primary pitcher, going 15-5 with 61 strikeouts and a 2.93 ERA.
Houston County, which also made it to Columbus last year, hosts Pope in Class 6A action Wednesday. Houston County (23-6) is sixth in the Score Atlanta Class 6A rankings, while Pope is fourth.
Mary Persons, ranked eighth by Score Atlanta in Class 4A, is also looking to make it to Columbus, with the Bulldogs (25-6) hosting sixth-ranked Stephens County on Wednesday.
In other action involving Middle Georgia Teams, West Laurens heads to Jefferson for a Class 4A series. Class 2A series include Monticello-Harlem, Bleckley County-Heard County and Lamar County-Dodge County. In Class 1A public, Hawkinsville is at Gordon Lee and Charlton County heads to GMC.
GHSA softball schedule
Wednesday doubleheaders, Game 3 schedule in parentheses
Pope at Houston County, 4 p.m. (TBA, Thursday)
Stephens County at Mary Persons, 5 p.m. (5 p.m., Thursday)
West Laurens at Jefferson, 5:30 p.m. (5:30 p.m., Thursday)
Monticello at Harlem, 4 p.m. (4 p.m., Thursday)
Bleckley County at Heard County, 3 p.m. (4 p.m., Thursday)
Lamar County at Dodge County, 4 p.m. (TBA, Thursday)
Class 1A public
Hawkinsville at Gordon Lee, 4 p.m. (TBA, Thursday)
Charlton County at GMC, 3 p.m. (2 p.m., Thursday)
Class 1A private
Holy Innocents at FPD, 2 p.m. (TBA, Thursday)
Brookstone at Stratford, 4:30 p.m. (TBA, Thursday)
Darlington at Tattnall Square, 5 p.m. (5 p.m., Thursday)