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Union Grove breezes into softball's second round

In the Living Up to Expectations Department, Morrow and No. 1-ranked Union Grove played to a tie Wednesday, which explains why Morrow coach Candice Jones could smile about her girls after they suffered twin 23-0 beatings.

"They never give up. No matter what the score, they're always trying," Jones said, beaming before delivering the understatement of the season:

"This is a different region."

To elaborate, there's a world of difference between Region 3-AAAA softball — the toughest in the state, with its four playoff entries among the classification's top nine teams — and the Region 4-AAAA brand.

There simply was no reason to pretend things could've turned out any differently in the first round of the state softball tournament. Given the wide chasm in expectations and experience, the games completely went according to form.

Led by Megan Betsa, who tossed no-hitters and homered in both ends of the doubleheader, Union Grove is a team of girls who play softball year-round. Colleges knock on the doors of its juniors.

Conversely, Morrow (8-12) sent to the pitcher's circle Ashley Brown, who started pitching only four region games ago.

So, from about the time Jones and Union Grove coach Rod Pipkin turned their lineup cards in to the umpires on a cool, steely overcast evening, their first round outcome was a foregone conclusion.

"I expect us to play that well," Pipkin said. "I was trying to get Megan some innings to stretch her out, but she only pitched six innings today."

It didn't matter who the Wolverines (30-4) used; the result was the same. Only Betsa and Lyndsey Parden started both games for Union Grove, which scored 12 runs in the first inning of the first game, 11 runs in the opening frame of the second game.

They totaled 18 hits in the opener, 17 in the nightcap.

Betsa had six RBIs in the first game, 10 for the two games. Allison Waters came up a home run short of the cycle in the second game and drove in four runs. Union Grove hurt Morrow from every spot in its batting order. No. 9 hitter Ashtin Burton had four RBIs in the nightcap.

There was no reason to pretend the Wolverines weren't looking forward to a shot at Greenbrier, the team that beat them three times last season and knocked them out of the Elite Eight in Columbus.

Whether the Wolverines will get that shot will be decided today after Greenbrier and Hardaway split Wednesday.

"I'm expecting to see Greenbrier — they had our number last year and we scored very little against them," Pipkin said. "It would be a tough matchup, but we'll be playing here on our field, which we're very familiar with."