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ECI Dawgs finish third in state tournament

With each and every trip to Columbus comes a little more experience and success for Emanuel County Institute’s varsity softball program. The 2021 Lady Bulldogs competed well for their school last weekend and came home from the Elite 8 with a third place finish.

Early on in the quarterfinals, head coach Frank Wimberly and company seemed to have their work cut out for them. The opening round of the bracket on Thursday, October 28, matched ECI up with Gordon Lee High School, a longtime softball powerhouse evidenced by the 2020 state title. However, the Lady Dawgs came out hot and beat the Lady Trojans rather handily 4–1.

With the win, ECI set themselves up for an easier route to the title game. They would have the remainder of opening day off to rest and prepare for Social Circle Lady Redskins the following day.

On Friday, October 29, the Lady Bulldogs came out and handled business, winning a nailbiter, 2–1, in the day’s first game to survive and advance. The win also kept them in the winner’s bracket and allowed for the remainder of Day 2 off to rest and regroup.

Meanwhile, the Lady Gryphons from ACE Charter out of Macon had played their way into a similar situation so when the two teams met on Friday, October 30, they were both fighting for a pivotal position in the tournament.

Unfortunately, the Lady Bulldogs would suffer a 5–2 loss in their third game, consequently falling into the loser’s bracket for the first time.

Then came a gauntlet. It’s difficult enough to take down a school like Gordon Lee in the regular season. That same task becomes increasingly difficult in the opening round of the Elite 8, but ECI had done it anyway. Unfortunately, the Lady Trojans would find a way to stay alive, beating the Lady Dawgs 5–1 to advance to the championship.

Gordon Lee would eventually fall in the title game to ACE Charter 7–0.

With the performance in Columbus, the Lady Dawgs earned themselves (and their school) a third place win and, more importantly, have solidified themselves among the ranks of repeat competitors in the state tournament. This was ECI’s longest and perhaps best run at the state championship to date.

The Lady Bulldogs’ roster includes: freshmen Jayna Kearson, Kinley Grimes, Kayanna Thompson, Natalee Brown, Maddie Funderburke, Dayla Bethea, and Abbey Marsh; sophomores Jarei Oglesby and Asia Gibbons; juniors Charla Clifton, Kelsey Harper, Shayla Stephenson, Sullee Boddiford, Lily Robertson, Kaylan Lamb, Ally Taylor, Karly Oliff; and seniors Semya Williams and Macy Canady.

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