Not-so-comfortable wins are becoming quite comfortable for Northwest Whitfield High School’s softball team.
The Lady Bruins have won their two games in the Region 7-4A tournament by a combined three runs, but the winning is all that matters as Northwest defeated River Ridge 3-2 Monday at the Heritage Point softball complex in the second of those tournament wins. With the win, the Lady Bruins clinch a spot in the Class 4A state playoffs and can claim their third straight region title by winning their next two games, the first happening today at 7 p.m. against Heritage-Catoosa.
Trailing 2-0 in the top of the fourth inning, Colbie Thomas started the inning with Northwest’s first hit of the game against River Ridge (17-9) pitcher Heather Williams. Alyssa Ward followed with a single and Bayli Cruse loaded the bases with no outs with her single. Two batters later, Macy Weeks drove in Ward with a single. Two batters after her, with two outs and the bases loaded, Mallory Souther’s single up the middle drove in both Cruse and Ashley Conner.
“It was especially great for Mallory,” Northwest (26-4) coach Jason Brooker said. “She hasn’t been hitting great lately and to get the tying and go-ahead run was big for her.”
River Ridge, Sub-region 7A’s No. 1 seed, didn’t threaten again until the bottom of the seventh. Williams hit a ground-rule double to start the inning, but Merideth Kunsman struck out when she fouled a bunt attempt with two strikes. Then Northwest pitcher BriLeigh Bagget struck out Darion Spencer and Addison Bray to end the game with pinch runner Taylor Nettles stranded at second base.
“I just had to tell myself to hit my spots,” Baggett said.
The Lady Bruins, 7B’s No. 2 seed, started the tournament with a 2-0 win against Pickens. The Lady Bruins scored in the double digits 10 times this season but haven’t done so since winning 10-1 on Sept. 14 against Chattooga.
Next is Heritage-Catoosa, which entered as 7B’s top seed, won 6-3 against Ridgeland and also clinched a spot in the state playoffs.
The Lady Generals swept the season series against the Lady Bruins.
“I won’t say I was looking ahead, but (playing Heritage again) was always in the back of my mind,” Brooker said.
The Lady Knights scored their two runs in the first inning. Brianna Collender led off with a single and later scored on Jessica Baker’s double to right-center field. Baker scored two batters later on Kiley Rediger’s single to right field.
Baggett retired the next seven hitters and only allowed three baserunners and two hits the rest of the game. She finished with 11 strikeouts and no walks.
“We always have trouble with riseball pitchers,” River Ridge coach Scott Bradley said.
Thomas finished 2-for-3 and Cruse went 2-for-3 with a double.
In other games, Cass defeated Gilmer and then won 7-3 in eight innings over Pickens to advance in the losers’ bracket and play Ridgeland at 5 p.m. today. The winner clinches a spot in state.
• Cartersville 4, North Murray 1: In the Region 5-3A tournament at Hamilton Crossing in Adairsville, the Lady Mountaineers (13-16) missed a chance to win and clinch a top-four finish in the region and with it a spot in the state playoffs.
They’ll have another chance at that prize today — but losing will come at a much higher price this time.
North Murray dropped to the losers’ bracket in the double-elimination tournament and will take on Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe at 5 p.m. today. With a win, the Lady Mountaineers earn a spot in the state playoffs and will play the winner of Coahulla Creek and Sonoraville at 7 p.m.
“It’s win or go home,” North Murray coach Steve Granger said. “We’ll either extend our season or we’ll end our season.”
Against Cartersville, North Murray scored its lone run in the top of the third when Samantha Stafford’s squeeze bunt brought home Megan Pittman, who finished the day 2-for-4 with a triple. Stafford also had a double as part of the Lady Mountaineers’ seven-hit effort.
But Cartersville answered with four runs in the bottom of the third — the Lady Purple Hurricanes took advantage of an error during the big inning — and held on for the crucial win.
Kara Deal pitched a complete game, allowing four unearned runs on three hits and three walks while striking out four.
“We outhit them,” Granger said. “We just need to make the plays when we’re supposed to.”
• Coahulla Creek 3, Gordon Central 0: Also at the Region 5-3A tournament, Erin Harden pitched a no-hitter to help keep the season going for the Lady Colts (19-7).
After losing Saturday to North Murray, Coahulla Creek dropped into the losers’ bracket. After winning against the Lady Warriors, the Lady Colts will play Sonoraville at 5 p.m. today with the winner earning a spot in the state playoffs but the loser going home for the year.
“They have a strong lefty and are a very good team,” Coahulla Creek coach Josh Swiney said.
Harden struck out 15 and walked three, and she also drove in a run to help her cause. The Lady Colts scored two runs in the first inning and their other run came in the fifth.
Madeleine Kalafut was 2-for-3 with a triple and an RBI, while Baylee Adkins added a hit and drove in a run.
• Pepperell 5, Murray County 3: The Lady Indians started well enough on the second day of the Region 7-2A tournament at Alto Park in Rome, staking themselves to a 3-0 lead in the first inning.
When they couldn’t keep their bats going, though, they finished a win shy of making the state playoffs for the second straight season.
Murray County (14-17) was held to six hits as the Lady Dragons rallied with a run in the fourth and four more in the fifth to clinch a top-four finish at the tournament and a spot in the Class 2A state playoffs, which start next week. Murray County was eliminated from the losers’ bracket with the defeat, ending its season.
The Lady Indians split their regular-season home-and-home series with Pepperell, winning 10-4 on Aug. 29 and losing 8-7 on Sept. 23. But for the second year in a row, it was the Lady Dragons who came out on top at the region tournament in a game where the winner was guaranteed a spot in the state playoffs and the loser was sent home for the year.
Shea Pendley and Ashlee Strong each went 2-for-3 to lead Murray County at the plate — Pendley’s hits included a double — while Aubrie Osborne added a double.
Lindsey Dunn, who added the team’s other hit, had a tough day in the circle. In one inning of work, she faced 10 batters, allowing four runs on five hits, a walk and a hit batter. Whitney Gribble pitched the other six innings, allowing one run on three hits and as many walks while striking out five.
Murray County coach Sandra Johnston said her team’s offensive output “just kind of fizzled” after the first inning and that Pepperell made the most of its contact with the ball.
The Lady Indians had just one senior, Caitlyn Sims, on their roster.
• Northwest 8, Southeast Whitfield 8: The Bruins struck first and carried an 8-0 lead to the half, but the host Raiders responded after the break to escape with a tie in a turnover-plagued game.
Jay Jones caught a 45-yard touchdown pass from Paxton Pardee to give Northwest (1-1-2) the first lead of the game, and Pardee completed a pass to Noah Conry for the two-point conversion.
But Cody Gillean answered for Southeast (2-2-1) with an 8-yard touchdown run as well as a two-point conversion run in the second half.
Northwest’s Tanner Boyd picked off a pass as part of an all-around good defensive performance for the Bruins, coach Ryan Scoggins said.