The Lady Hounds swept Wayne County 6-2 and 8-5 in Gray Tuesday in the opening round of the state Class 5A softball playoffs.
Jones County (22-10) advances to play another best-of-three series at Lithia Springs next Tuesday in the second round. Lithia Springs (24-4), the top team in Region 6-5A, swept Clarke Central 8-0 and 17-2 on Tuesday. The winner next week advances to the Elite Eight tournament in Columbus.
The Lady Hounds’ first win Tuesday also was the 500th career victory for coach Blake Lyons, who is in his 20th season coaching softball. He has coached two state champion teams, 1999 at Eagle’s Landing and 2010 at Jones County. He has also coached baseball, golf and other sports in his 30 years teaching.
Current and former players surprised Lyons with a celebration following the second game Tuesday night.
“This isn’t about me, it’s about all the girls and assistant coaches I’ve had with me all these years,” said Lyons, who now has a career record of 501-209-2. He is 312-158-2 in his 13th season at Jones County.
Kenzie Forrester started and got the win in Tuesday’s first game, and Savannah Williams did the same in the second, with Destin Howard coming in to finish in both.
Mackenzie Kilpatrick went 5-for-8 with four RBIs, a double, a triple and a home run in the two games to lead the offense.
Madison Bennett was 4-for-7 with an RBI, a triple and scored three runs. Howard was 3-for-7 with two homers. And Makinsey Long was 3-for-6 with a double and two RBIs.
The Lady Hounds began slowly in the first game, scoring single runs in the first and fourth innings. But after Wayne County scored two unearned runs in the top of the fifth to tie the game, the Jones County girls woke up and reclaimed the lead with four runs in the bottom of the inning.
Jones County built a 6-0 lead in the second game before the Yellow Jackets scored a run in the fourth and two in the sixth on home runs by Mackenzie Kagee to cut the lead in half. But Kilpatrick and Howard hit back-to-back homers for the Lady Hounds in the top of the seventh, which was plenty of cushion to withstand two more runs by the visitors in the bottom of the inning.
“We came out a little nervous. I think the girls were remembering last year (when Jones County was swept in the first round at Harris County) and not as aggressive as we needed to be,” Lyons said. “But we got the bats going later in the game and got the runs we needed.”
Jones County was the No. 2 seed from Region 4-5A, and Wayne County (12-14) was the No. 3 seed from Region 2-5A.
Check next week’s paper for more details and photos from the games.