Elite Eight field includes region champs, surprises

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The Franklin County Lady Lions are as few as four games away from a second consecutive state championship. Franklin will begin play today at 6 p.m. in the state’s Elite Eight tournament at the Columbus Softball Complex in Columbus.

  • The Franklin County Lady Lions begin play today in the state Elite Eight Tournament in Columbus.
    The Franklin County Lady Lions begin play today in the state Elite Eight Tournament in Columbus.
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The Franklin County Lady Lions are as few as four games away from a second consecutive state championship.

Franklin will begin play today at 6 p.m. in the state’s Elite Eight tournament at the Columbus Softball Complex in Columbus.

This is Franklin’s fourth trip to the Elite Eight in seven seasons.

This year’s double-elimination tournament includes five region champions, six teams ranked in the Max Preps Top 10 power rankings and five teams ranked in the Top 10 by Score Atlanta.

“Now that you’re there, anything can happen,” Franklin Coach Jason Oliver said.

His Lady Lions will match up with the Lumpkin County Lady Indians in the opening game of the tournament.

Lumpkin made the state playoffs after finishing second in Region 7AAA.

The Lady Indians defeated Westminster in three games in the tournament’s first round and then swept Crisp County in the second round.

Lumpkin, 20-12, is the No. 12-ranked team according to Max Preps’ state power rankings.

The Lady Indians are scoring 6.6 runs per game and allowing 4.8 per game.

Franklin and Lumpkin are joined by region champions Ringgold (6AAA), Southeast Bulloch (3AAA), Lovett (5AAA) and East Hall (7AAA), as well as Calhoun and Jefferson.

Ringgold has been at the top of state rankings of all kinds for most of the season.

The Lady Tigers are 25-3 this season, winning by an average score of 8.1-2.5.

Ringgold has won 20 straight games and had shutouts in all four of its state playoff games.

The Lady Tigers defeated Region 8AAA’s Morgan County 12-0 and 7-0 in the first round and Tattnall County 8-0 and 14-0 in the second round.

Fellow Region 6AAA powerhouse Calhoun is also in the tournament.

The Lady Yellow Jackets are 20-13 this season, scoring 6.1 runs a game and allowing 4.3 runs per contest.

Calhoun defeated Jackson County in three games in the state tournament’s first round and defeated Rutland 9-1 and 9-2 in the second round.

The Lady Jackets are No. 6 in the Score Atlanta poll and No. 5 in the Max Preps power rankings.

Southeast Bulloch, the Region 3AAA champion, will be the lone team from South Georgia in the tournament.

Oliver sees them as a dark horse contender for the state championship.

Southeast, No. 8 in the Max Preps rankings, is 26-6 this season.

The Lady Yellowjackets are scoring 8.75 runs per game and allowing 2.25 runs.

The team has won 11 straight games and has seven shutouts in their last eight games.

Southeast swept Haralson County and Pace Academy to advance to the Elite Eight.

Region 5AAA champion Lovett made the Elite Eight with wins over Greater Atlanta Christian and Islands in the first two rounds.

The Lady Lions are 18-8 this season, averaging a gaudy 14.5 runs per game and giving up just 2.6.

Lovett is No. 14 in the Max Preps power rankings.

No. 4-ranked East Hall blew out Cedar Grove 21-0 and 23-0 in the first round before sweeping Cook 7-6 and 11-2 in the second round.

The Lady Vikings have won nine straight and are 25-6 this season.

Ranked No. 4 by both Score Atlanta and Max Preps, East Hall averages nine runs per game while giving up 2.3 runs per game.

The Lady Vikings split games with Franklin County this season and defeated Jefferson in one meeting also.

Jefferson is 25-9 this season and was the state runner-up last season.

The Lady Dragons are ranked No. 3 by Max Preps and No. 5 by Score Atlanta.

Jefferson defeated a pair of Top 10-ranked teams to make it to Columbus.

The Lady Dragons beat Sonoraville in three games to open the tournament and Brantley County 13-0 and 7-2 in the second round.

Jefferson scores 5.8 runs per game and allows 3.1 per game.

Oliver said the key for his Franklin team is to get a good early start in games.

“Going into it, I feel we’ve got a shot,” he said.

The tournament will continue Friday with the state championship set for Saturday afternoon in Columbus.