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Union Grove hits centerstage

By Brian Paglia

bpaglia@news-daily.com

Union Grove softball coach Rod Pipkin admitted a special level of excitement permeated his team leading up to tonight's game against Jones County at Georgia Tech.

"They're looking forward to playing at Georgia Tech," Pipkin said.

After a 1-0 victory over Ola on Tuesday, Lady Wolverines players acknowledged their anticipation.

"We're really excited," junior first baseman Jordan Corbin said.

"I'm so pumped," sophomore pitcher Megan Betsa said. "I'm so excited."

Union Grove's excitement is warranted, for the stage is theirs -- it is the Lady Wolverines' regular season finale, on the field of a nationally-ranked collegiate program, against the No. 2-ranked team in Class AAAA, with two of the state's premier pitching talents going head-to-head.

Were the game against any other team, Union Grove (16-4, 9-1 Region 3A-AAAA) might simply relish the chance to play in a college environment and enjoy the experience.

But much more is at stake: Playoff positioning and revenge. Jones County (20-5, 8-2) trails Union Grove by a game in the subregion, but would clinch first place with a win after defeating the Lady Wolverines, 3-1, on Aug. 31. Jones County and Union Grove were ranked Nos. 1 and 2, respectively, in Class AAAA that day. They're Nos. 1 and 2 in Region 3A-AAAA now.

"I really want to play them," Betsa said. "I really want to beat them, especially after they beat us first."

Jones County got the best of Betsa in their previous meeting, scoring on a wild pitch and a risky two-strike squeeze bunt, and Lady Greyhounds ace Kristin Carr, a first team all-state performer as a junior, struck out 10 and allowed just four hits.

"We really want to beat (Jones County)," Corbin said.

Indeed, as much as the Lady Wolverines plan to savor the opportunity to perform on a grand stage, the opportunity for revenge and to solidify their place as the No. 1 seed could be even more valuable.

"Our job is to go up there and win," Pipkin said. "If we win, we're the No. 1 seed. They're looking forward to getting some revenge on Jones County, because they are very good."