First pitch Thursday in Columbus for GHSA Fast Pitch Softball Championships

Sixty-four teams will make the trip to Columbus with the hopes of being one of eight champions crowned on Saturday, Oct. 28. Out of the field of teams, there are defending champions looking to repeat, up-and-coming programs looking to stake a claim as the dominant teams in their respective classes and teams that seem to be back in the finals year after year.

In the state’s highest classification, top-ranked East Coweta will begin its trek for the first state title in school history at 9 a.m. on Thursday at Field No. 8 vs. Archer. Second-ranked Lowndes will be a top challenger in the Class AAAAAAA championship bracket. Fourth-ranked Etowah defeated North Cobb (8-0, 13-0) and No. 6 Newnan (9-3, 15-4) to earn the trip to Columbus.

In Class AAAAAA, defending champion Cambridge, which will face Greenbrier on Field No. 5 on Thursday at 11 a.m., will have an opportunity for a repeat state championship after storming undefeated through the championship bracket last season. It marked the first state title for the Lady Bears. This season, Cambridge defeated Lanier (5-4, 11-0) and Dalton (8-5, 9-2) in the playoff bracket to make it back to Columbus. Top-ranked Creekview, which will face Houston County on Field No. 6 at 11 a.m. on Thursday, is seeking its first-ever state championship along with Houston County, Allatoona, Evans and Effingham County.

Top-ranked Buford has had a stranglehold on any classification it has been in over the past decade. The Lady Wolves will be looking for their 11th state title in a row, second in Class AAAAA. Buford has won a state title every season since 2007. In 2014 and 2015, the Lady Wolves dominated the Class AAAA bracket. In 2012 and 2013, they won the Class AAA title, and from 2007-2011, the Class AA title. This season, Buford defeated Hiram (16-0, 10-0) and Miller Grove (13-0, 19-1) to earn the return trip to Columbus.

In Class AAAA, three of the eight teams — Stephens County, Northwest Whitfield and Eastside — had to survive a decisive Game 3 after splitting the first two games in the second round. Northwest Whitfield, the top-ranked team in the final regular-season poll, will face Eastside Thursday at 5 p.m. Northside-Columbus, which defeated Woodward Academy (12-0, 13-1) in the second round, will face Stephens County to open its bid for a state title. Marist will be looking for its first title since winning back-to-back in 2008-09.

No. 1 Calhoun fell to East Jackson 4-2 in the championship game last season after working its way through the loser’s bracket following a first-round loss to Cook. This year, East Jackson lost to East Hall in the first round of the playoff brackets and will not make a return trip to Columbus. Calhoun defeated Cedar Grove (19-0, 16-0) and Franklin County (8-0, 11-5) to earn the championship berth. The Lady Yellow Jackets, who face Rutland in the first round, won the Class AA title in 2013 and the Class AAA title in 2014 and 2015.

Defending Class AA champion Harlem is back again after defeating Washington County (18-0, 19-1) and Jeff Davis (5-1, 12-0) to earn the championship bracket berth. The remaining seven teams will be vying for the first state title at each of the respective schools. Rockmart, the top-ranked team at the end of the regular season, will face No. 3 Dodge County in the first round of the championship bracket.

After ending the regular season ranked No. 1 in Class A Public, Gordon Lee will be on the hunt for its eighth state title and third in a row. The Lady Trojans won the Class A title in 2004 and 2010-13, the Class AA title in 2015 and last year’s Class A-Public title. Gordon Lee advanced to Columbus after defeating Schley County (4-1, 20-1). Bowdon, the third-ranked team at the end of the regular season, will face Mt. Zion-Carroll in the first round of the championship bracket. Trion and Marion County, ranked No. 10 and No. 7 respectively, will face off in the first round.

No. 1 Tattnall Square Academy will be looking for its first state title ever as it enters the Class A-Private championship bracket on Thursday vs. defending champion First Presbyterian Day. No. 2 Wesleyan will face No. 9 Stratford Academy in the first round of the championship bracket after defeating Christian Heritage (5-1, 13-2) in round 2 following a bye in the first round of the playoff brackets. A top challenger will be No. 3 Eagle’s Landing Christian, which has won seven state titles (2006-09, 2013-15). The Lady Chargers earned a bye in the first round before defeating North Cobb Christian (9-0, 10-3) to earn the championship bracket berth.

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