By Doug Gorman
When the 2005 high school fastpitch softball season began back in August, every team in the Georgia High School Association had the same objective to make it to Columbus for the Elite Eight tournament.
For the Union Grove Lady Wolverines and the Luella Lady Lions, the goal is about to become a reality, as both squads will join the 40 other teams scatter throughout the state's five classifications in vying for a state title starting Thursday in the double-elimination tournament in Columbus.
Union Grove will compete for its first ever state softball crown in the Class AAAAA division, while Luella attempts to win its first title in the Class AAAA event.
Both Union Grove and Luella earned a spot in their respective Elite Eight tournaments by cruising through last weekend's state sectionals.
Union Grove, which is ranked second in the most recent gasports.com coaches' poll, was ranked in the top spot for several weeks, didn't allow a run at the sectionals.
It's Union Groves third straight trip to the Elite 8.
The Lady Wolverines outscored opponents 19-0 in beating Glynn Academy (7-0), Colquitt County (11-0) and East Coweta (1-0).
Union Grove, comes into the tournament with a 32-7 record, winning 9 of its last 11 games.
The Lady Wolverines begin competition against North Gwinnett in a 4 p.m. contest Thursday afternoon. North Gwinnett comes into the first-round game with a 25-8-2 record.
North Gwinnett and Union Grove played earlier in the season, with the Lady Wolverines winning 2-0.
A victory in the first-round game would set up a contest between the Sequoyah-East Coweta winner at 6 p.m Thursday.
A loss would knock the Lady Wolverines down to the loser's bracket and a game Friday at 11 a.m.
The Luella Lady Lions are headed to Columbus in just the third year of the program.
Luella enters the Elite Eight tournament with a 25-8 overall record. Although they are not ranked in the latest, gasports.com coaches poll, the Lady Lions have been ranked at times this season.
The Lady Lions won all three games in the state sectionals, beating Whitewhite (1-0), Effingham County (5-2) and Northgate (2-0). Brooke Loudermilk picked up all three wins, striking out 43 throughout the tournament.
Anjah Usher had the game-winning RBI in the Effingham and Northgate games.
Rache Hellinger knocked in the game winner againsrt Whitewater.
In the victory against Whitewater, Loundermilk pitched a no-hitter.
The Lady Lions open play against Marist in a 2 p.m. game. Marist comes into the contest with a 21-10 record.
Should Luella win, it would play the winner of the Northgate-East Paulding winner Thursday at 6.
A loss in the first round drops Luella into a loser's bracket game Friday at 11 a.m