Harlem and Grovetown are the two remaining Columbia County teams in the state softball tournament.
The Lady Bulldogs swept Bryan County, 7-1 and 8-0, Wednesday in the first round of the GHSA Class AA playoffs. Harlem will play host to Monticello on Wednesday afternoon, with the winner advancing to the Elite Eight.
Grovetown, which needed three games to defeat Lakeside to make the Class AAAAAA state playoffs, entered postseason as a No. 3 seed. The Lady Warriors knocked off No. 2 seed Coffee on the road, 4-0, on Thursday, for their first state playoff series victory. Grovetown will travel to play Region 7 champion Cambridge on Wednesday.
Evans, a No. 4 seed, dropped a close series at Region 1 champion Houston County, 1-0 and 5-3.
Greenbrier also bowed out of the playoffs with its 3-0 home loss to Lee County in Game 3 of their first-round series Thursday.
“They deserved to win the series,” said Greenbrier coach Garrett Black, who complimented the Lady Trojans’ defense and approach at the plate. “That’s a great ball club, well-coached. I’m very impressed with their kids.”
Greenbrier (21-12) entered the state tournament as a No. 2 seed. But the Lady Wolfpack played sloppy defense throughout the series and failed to get any timely hits in their final game.
In three games, Greenbrier recorded nine errors. The Lady Wolfpack rallied to win the first game and led 5-2 entering the bottom of the sixth in the second game before falling.
Junior pitcher Brianna Butler allowed just four hits in Game 3, striking out four batters. Still, she took the hard-luck loss.
“Bri threw well enough to win. She threw well enough to win all three games,” Black said. “But when you don’t make plays behind her....We made her throw an extra 100 pitches this series.”
Lee County, the home team in Game 3, started a one-out rally in the first when Amanda Kelley slapped a routine single up the middle and then reached third on a two-base error in the outfield.
The next batter, Ally Clegg, popped harmlessly to the right side of the infield. When second baseman Rachel Crowe and first baseman Kaylie Titus collided, the ball fell to the ground, allowing Clegg to reach second.
Lee County’s Sydney McLarin took advantage, ripping a two-run single up.
“We gave them two runs in the first inning,” Black said. “That kind of set the momentum right there. But we had our chances last night. The bottom line is we did not play defense with routine plays. It’s frustrating. It’s going to take a while to get over this one.”
Lee County pitcher Abby Hughes held the Lady Wolfpack in check, scattering five hits. In the fifth, Crowe, who went 2 for 3, posted a two-out single, while Nicole Rogers followed with another single. But Hughes ended the rally by forcing Butler pop to short.
Augusta Prep dropped its first game of the season Friday night to undefeated John Milledge.
The Cavaliers gave up three touchdowns in the second quarter and lost 31-12.
“I think in the long run it will help us as it was a learning lesson for us against a very talented, well-coached team,” Augusta Prep coach Harry Bacheller said. “We are still a little young, but we grew up a little tonight.”
B.J. Stone scored on a 90-yard kickoff return in the fourth quarter and also added a 2-yard rushing touchdown for the Cavaliers.
Augusta Prep closes out the regular when it plays Friday night at Westfield.
• Greenbrier fell to 5-2 overall, 0-2 in Region 3-AAAAAA play after its 35-7 home loss to Heritage.
The Patriots opened up a close game with 21 unanswered points in the second half.
JQ Brown led the Wolfpack with 81 yards on 11 carries. He also added one catch for 22 yards.
Greenbrier returns to action Friday when it plays host to Evans at 7:30 p.m.
• Augusta Christian tried to make a late rally, but it wasn’t enough in a 24-21 loss to Spartanburg Christian.
The Lions allowed 24 points in the second quarter and entered the fourth down by 17. E’mon Reeves scored on a 35-yard run and Jackson Wingard followed with a 25-yard touchdown run in the final two minutes.
Augusta Christian (3-5, 2-2) rushed for 293 yards on 54 carries, while Spartanburg Christian gained 331 total yards.
The Lions play host to Florence Christian at 7:30 p.m. Friday.
• Lakeside played Saturday at Alcovy. The Panthers play host to Heritage at 7:30 p.m. Friday.
• Harlem played Saturday at Josey. The Bulldogs have a bye this week.
In a Region 3-AAAAAA heavyweight bout Friday night, the Evans defense made all the big plays in the final seven minutes.
The Knights intercepted a pass and held Grovetown twice on fourth down late in the game, holding on for a 26-24 victory.
After winning four games last season, Evans improved to 5-2 overall, 2-0 in region play. Second-year Knights coach Lemuel Lackey said he expected his team’s game with the Warriors to be a battle.
“When you get in these rivalry games where you know the kids over there and know the coaches, it’s always going to be nip and tuck,” he said. “Without question, they’ve got some superstars. But we’ve got a good team and we’re going to fight hard.”
Evans started two drives inside its 10-yard line and was backed up to the 13 on another possession. The Knights scored on all three drives, including a 91-yard touchdown run by Corey Watkins in the third quarter that staked Evans to a 26-17 lead. Watkins finished with 22 carries for 150 yards and two touchdowns and added a 74-yard kickoff return. Latravious Holiday added 58 yards on seven rushes.
“We’re versatile in a lot of ways,” Lackey said. “I’ve got two good backs and I’ll put them up against anyone. They can run the ball at any place. They fight hard. If you give them a crease, they’ll take it.”
Grovetown (3-5, 1-2) managed just 206 yards of offense, but it scored on a 32-yard Taylor Youngblood scramble and a 91-yard kickoff return by Verenzo Holmes in the first half. Zion Hogan recovered a Levin Lackey fumble in the end zone early in the fourth quarter to pull the Warriors within 26-24.
But Grovetown was called for 14 penalties for 137 yards, including seven personal foul or unsportsmanlike penalty calls.
“It always goes back to the mental stuff for me, all the penalties,” Warriors coach Damien Postell said. “(Evans) made some plays. Those kids broke some tackles and made some long runs. We’ve just got to do the same thing. We’ve got to learn how to finish.”
Grovetown’s Youngblood threw a deep pass midway through the fourth quarter to Holmes, but Dajour Davis fought for the ball and came away with the interception. The Warriors, who recovered a Watkins fumble on the next play, advanced the ball to midfield on their next possession. On fourth and 2, Holiday stuffed Youngblood in the backfield.
Grovetown got another chance, facing fourth and 1 on its 31. Running back D’Angelo Durham, who led his team with 35 yards, took a high shotgun snap and got stuffed in the backfield by Jake Knight with
1:33 to go.
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