ATHENS — On Tuesday, the Wortham Lady Bulldogs hardly resembled a team with zero playoff experience.

Instead, the underdogs acted like they’d been there several times before, and came away with a 4-1 upset victory over Martin’s Mill in a Region III-1A bi-district playoff meeting.

“The thing that we’ve talked about is we’ve got to start winning in the playoffs,” head coach Anthony Branch said. “Not just in this sport, but in every sport. We’ve got to get over that hump. I told them that if we’re going to win, we’re going to win playing our best ball.”

The Lady Bulldogs can say that, after knocking six key hits off hard-throwing Lady Mustangs starter Ashley Tarrant (11-6). They were equally dominant on the other side of the ball, as Wortham starter Amber Reece (8-6) allowed just two hits through seven innings.

“It’s really big,” said junior shortstop Kali Warren. “It’s our first playoff game ever, and to win just felt really great.”

Added Reece, “I was really nervous, but I was just throwing my pitches and we made the outs.”

Wortham got on the board first in the top of the second inning. Lyndsie Thompson led off the inning with a walk, advanced to second when Courtney Reece sacrifice bunted to make two outs. Juliann Jarrell’s hard single to third moved Thompson to third, and she scored on a wild pitch.

The Lady Mustangs retaliated in the bottom of the inning, when Kalyn McCullough’s RBI groundout scored Haley Butler from third base to tie the game.

The Lady Bulldogs snapped the tie with a two-run rally in the fifth, which started on Cara Weempe’s base hit to left. KelliAnn Spencer then followed it up with a smashing triple over the centerfielder’s head that scored Weempe. Warren kept it going with an RBI single to right that brought in Spencer, making it a 3-1 game.

“They were big hits,” Branch said. “We were just hoping to get something going. We got the hit, moved her over and then got the triple and went from there.”

They further added to their lead in the sixth, when Sara Owens drove in Reece with a hit to left that made it 4-1.

Wortham’s defense also came up big throughout the night. Spencer made two tough diving stabs of line drives at second base, Warren was a vacuum at shortstop, and the outfielders didn’t misplay a single flyball. The Lady Bulldogs closed it out in the bottom of the seventh inning, fittingly in 1-2-3 fashion.

“Our defense was A-plus,” Thompson said. “I don’t think we’ve ever played defense like that all year. Everybody was prepared.”

Especially Thompson, a four-year player who has been with Wortham through thick and thin.

“We’ve waited four years,” she said. “From freshman year getting run-ruled every game, it was kind of a downer. But these girls are great and they know how to play ball, and I love them to death.”

The Lady Bulldogs (13-9-1) now advance to the area playoffs, where they will face the winner between Joaquin and Slocum next week.

Either team presents a hefty challenge — but that’s just what Wortham seems to like.

“We know next week’s going to be tough,” Thompson said. “Hopefully they’ll come out underestimating us again.”



Softball

Region III-1A Bi-district

Wortham 4,

Martin’s Mill 1

Wortham 010 021 0 — 4 6 2

M. Mill 010 000 0 — 1 2 3

WP — Amber Reece (8-6, K).

LP — Ashley Tarrant (11-6, 8 Ks).

Leading Hitters — W: KelliAnn Spencer 1-3 (3B, RBI, run), Juliann Jarrell 1-3, Courtney Reece 1-2 (run), Cara Weempe 1-1 (run), Kali Warren 1-3, Lyndsie Thompson (run). MM: Brittney Perkins 1-3, Ashley Tarrant 1-3.

Records: Wortham (13-9-1), Martin’s Mill (11-5).

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