GC Softball: Brooke McGraw has monster game, Blooming Grove wins Bi-District title

Apr. 29—ITASCA — The Lady Lions of Blooming Grove unleashed Brooke McGraw on the playoffs Saturday and Brooke and the BG Girls won a wild and wonderful game, beating Clifton 9-7 to win the Bi-District title and advance to the Area Round in the Class 3A playoffs.

Joanna Smith's girls will play Lexington in a best-of-three series Friday and Saturday at Mart, where they open with a 6 p.m. game on Friday and play Game 2 at noon Saturday and Game 3 (if needed) afterward.

"It was a team effort," said Smith, who led her girls to Blooming Grove's first district title since 2007, back when she played for the Lady Lions along with her older sister, Emily.

Smith has a team that's on fire right now.

The Grove girls went unbeaten, running away with the District 18-3A title, and have won 13 games in a row, including Saturday's slugfest that was a back-and-forth battle that didn't end until Blooming Grove came back from a 7-5 deficit late in the game.

Brooke McGraw belted a two-run homer in the second and a three-run bomb in the third, driving in five runs early for the Lady Lions, who needed every run Saturday. She went 2-for-2 with two walks and scored four runs.

Brooke, a junior, has been a key player for the Lady Lions for three years along with her twin, Janey, who suffered a season-ending injury earlier this season, leaving a huge hole in the Lady Lion lineup. The Lady Lions also lost Lauren Wilcoxen, another key player to the team, to a season-ending injury.

But the Grove Girls came through Saturday.

"The girls had to fight, and kept fighting to the end," Smith said. "Brooke was the spark we needed. Carli (Cunningham) and Madeline (Brown) stepped up at the plate and did the job when needed. Maeli (Lawhon) has also stepped up in a big way for us. Now we are preparing for the next one."

Smith needed two pitchers and every bat in the lineup to prevail as Rileigh O'Dell started and went two innings and Ava Eldridge won the game in relief, throwing the final five innings, allowing three earned runs while striking out nine.

Ava went 3-for-3 at the plate, doubled, scored three runs and drove in a run and O'Dell went 1-for-4 and drove in a run. MaKenna Davis went 1-for-3 and scored twice and Lawhon went 1-for-3 and drove in a run.