The first series is in the books for the Carrollton High School softball team.
The top-seeded Lady Trojans swept fourth-seeded Flowery Branch on Wednesday evening in 5-3 and 12-4 decisions to advance to the sweet 16 of the Class AAAAA state playoffs.
Facing a quality No. 4 seed out of a tough Region 8, Carrollton head coach Lisa Phillips noted how critical it was to get the sweep and not have to deal with a do-or-die Game 3 today where anything can happen.
"Absolutely. I told our kids after Game 1 that we'd been in this position before where we'd won Game 1 and left after Game 3 as the loser," Phillips said. "So we wanted to make sure we came out in the second game and really set the tone early at the plate and I felt like we did that. We got early runs that really helped us relax a little bit and play hard."
Carrollton will play host to second-seeded Chamblee (22-5-1) in the second round next week after the Lady Bulldogs swept No. 3 Lithia Springs on Wednesday afternoon.
As for the action on the home front, the Lady Trojans (26-1-1) hung tight to grind out the two-run win in the opener before the bats exploded in the nightcap to run away with the five-inning, mercy-rule victory.
"The first game, we were a little tight. But we made enough plays and got enough hits and did some things. We felt like we left some runs on the board early in that game, but a tough, gritty win, which I feel like is one of the characteristics of our team and our program," Phillips said.
In Game 1, the Lady Trojans pushed a run across in the bottom of the second on a one-out double by Scout Jennings and an RBI base knock from Savannah Cook for the early 1-0 edge.
The visitors grabbed a one-run advantage with a two-run third, but Carrollton hurler Olivia Fannin stranded runners at first and second to keep the damage minimal.
Carrollton had its big inning in the fourth, scoring four runs on four hits, a hit batsman and two walks.
Following an RBI sacrifice fly by Cook, Zhari Dunson blasted a solo shot over the left-field fence, Aslinn Spradlin stroked an RBI single and Fannin drew a bases-loaded walk to put the Lady Trojans on top by a 5-2 margin.
Flowery Branch got a run back in the sixth, but once again Fannin stranded two more runners — at first and third this time — and the Carrollton defense turned a huge 6-4-3 double play in the seventh to end any rally hopes from the Lady Falcons (15-15).
Fannin tossed all seven innings, yielding three runs on seven hits with three walks, a hit batsman and four strikeouts.
Offensively, Dunson (2-for-3, HR), Spradlin (2-for-3, sac bunt, 2 SB, run, RBI) and Cook (1-for-1, sac fly, sac bunt, 2 RBI) led the charge for Carrollton.
In the nightcap, the Lady Trojans scored a pair of runs in the first inning before blowing the game open in the top of the second, sending 13 batters to the plate and scoring eight runs on seven hits.
Kate Albertus had an RBI double, Montana Dallas had a two-run double and Jennings belted a two-run home run over the right-field wall for a 10-0 lead.
Flowery Branch was able to get four runs back in the third, the bulk of which came on a three-run dinger by Kara Kight, but Cook answered in the fifth by roasting a two-run bomb deep over the left-field fence to end the game early by the run rule.
Phillips was excited to see the bats come to life in Game 2, as Carrollton was hitting the ball hard up and down the lineup.
"Really, in both games I thought we had some balls that we hit hard that they made pretty good plays on. Definitely it's a good time for those bats to get started. It was against quality pitching. That was good pitching that we faced," Phillips said. "It was good to see some of our kids who had been struggling a little bit came out and hit the ball really well."
Albertus (3-for-3, 2B, 2 runs, RBI), Cook (2-for-2, BB, HR, 2 RBI) and Jennings (2-for-3, 2 runs, HR, 2 RBI) powered Carrollton at the plate in Game 2. Spradlin got the win in the circle, firing five innings and allowing four runs on six hits with one walk and one strikeout.
Carrollton will now have a few days to prepare for Chamblee, which comes to town to begin the second-round series next Wednesday with a doubleheader.
"We're up for the challenge. We're going to take a day off and enjoy homecoming and get back to work over the weekend and get prepared for Chamblee," Phillips said.