The Thomson High School Lady Bulldogs captured the Region 3-AAA softball tournament by defeating Harlem in back-to-back games at Diamond Lakes Regional Park near Hephzibah on Tuesday.
"This is the reason I came to Thomson," said a jubilant Thomson coach Jason Osborn after his team defeated Harlem in two night games by scores of 9-2 and then 6-1. "This is a stepping stone for our program."
Winning a softball region title is a first in the history of Thomson High School. The past two years, the Lady Bulldogs have finished runners-up behind West Laurens in Dublin.
Thomson will play host to the first-round of the Class AAA state softball playoffs beginning on Oct. 13, though the opponent has not been determined.
Harlem also will be entertaining an opponent that is yet to be decided, on Oct. 13.
Earlier in the afternoon, it was the Harlem Lady Bulldogs downing Thomson 6-5. The loss placed Thomson in the losers' bracket, but it didn't seem to bother the team one bit, as it bounced back to win handily over Washington County 25-5 and against Harlem, 9-2, in consecutive games, setting up the title game.
"I can't say enough about this team and how hard they worked to get to this point," Osborn said. "I'm extremely proud of all of my players."
He also praised junior pitcher Brooke Herkel, who pitched three complete games and four innings of another game on Tuesday.
"She battled her tail off," Osborn said.
In the championship game, Herkel yielded just four hits to Harlem. The only run she allowed was a solo home run to pitcher Kristen Mills in the bottom of the second inning. She also struck out six batters and walked four.
Herkel was equally effective against Harlem in Thomson's 9-2 win that set up the title game.
"She gave us everything she had," Osborne said of his pitcher's performance. "We couldn't have asked anything more of her."
Harlem coach Mike Leverett said his team had several chances to bounce back against Thomson.
"We had chances, but we swung at bad pitches and didn't play good defense," said Leverett. "I said before the games ever started on Tuesday that it would come down to pitching and which team could play the best defense."