Facing elimination Thursday afternoon at the state softball tournament at Lagoon Park, Athens wasn’t going down without a fight.
The Golden Eagles fought for 12 innings to stay alive in the 5A bracket before being eliminated 6-5 by Rehobeth.
“We just made too many mistakes,” said Athens softball head coach Travis Barnes. “But if the girls wouldn’t have fought as hard as they did, we wouldn’t have had those chances. I’m proud of the way they never gave up.”
Already with a loss in the tournament, Athens fell behind 4-0 in the third inning only to rally back to force extra innings.
The game remained tied 4-4 into the 11th inning when Rehobeth’s Ariana Boutwell hit a solo home run to regain the lead. AHS answered as it had all game with a run in the bottom of the 11th to force another inning.
Rehobeth’s game-winning run came in the 12th when Dayla Gulledge put down a sacrifice bunt to score Talla Truit. Athens put runners on second and third in the bottom of the 12th, but couldn’t sustain the rally.
The loss ended a valiant effort for Athens, which was going for its second state championship since 2010.
With two outs and runners on first and second in the bottom of the seventh, Taylor Hall hit a single to keep Athens alive. Hall’s single scored Kaitlyn Scruggs and tied the score 4-4 to send the game into extra innings.
Cyndra Graves got Athens on board when she scored from third after Chesley Abernathy hit a sacrifice fly to center field. Brianna Caldwell then hit a two-run home run to pull Athens within a run.
In the opening game, Athens lost a close game to Briarwood 2-1 to fall into the loser’s bracket. Runs were hard to come by for the Golden Eagles as they left nine runners stranded.
“We just didn’t hit the ball well,” said Barnes. “We had great pitching and played good defense. You have to hit the ball well when you get to the state tournament.
Chelsey Abernathy and Cyndra Graves had two hits each to lead Athens. Rebekah Cannon,Taylor Hall and Ashley Donahue contributed one hit each.
The loss ends a promising season for the Golden Eagles, which finished with a 40-19 record. Senior pitcher Brianna Caldwell led the team with 15 home runs, including a two-run dinger against Rehobeth.
AHS will return two of its three starting pitchers in rising seniors Emily McNairy and Rebekah Morris. AHS loses four seniors in Abernathy, Caldwell, Donahue and Anna Stephens.
—Kim West and Ashley Graves contributed to this story.