August 28, 2013

Cruse-ing right along

Senior catcher homers as Northwest Whitfield tops Dalton

Devin Golden
devingolden@daltoncitizen.com

TUNNEL HILL — Dalton High School’s softball matchup at Northwest Whitfield on Tuesday night came down to who made important plays on defense.

The hosts did. The visitors didn’t.

Dalton’s three errors resulted in six unearned runs, while Northwest’s defense played error-free behind Lady Bruins starting pitcher BriLeigh Baggett for an 8-0 win in the Sub-region 7B-4A opener for both teams. The game was shortened to four and a half innings by the Georgia High School Association’s mercy rule.

The Lady Catamounts (2-6) and starting pitcher Alli Swinford held Northwest scoreless for an inning before mistakes started popping up.

Mallory Souther reached first base on an error to lead off the second for Northwest (8-0) and later scored on Jamison Payne’s single. With Payne at second and Alyssa Ward on first, Hannah Godfrey’s two-out grounder went back to Swinford, but Godfrey’s speed rushed Swinford and her throw to first was off target. Both Payne and Ward scored on the play.

The next batter, Bayli Cruse, hit a two-run homer for a 5-0 lead.

But Northwest coach Jason Brooker wasn’t happy with what he perceived as a lack of focus at the plate by the Lady Bruins, who finished the game with seven hits.

“Just not being patient and letting (the ball) get there, or dropping our hands,” Brooker said. “That’s not like us, with mostly seniors and juniors. ... We hadn’t had but three or four practices on the field (due to weather). We didn’t play at all last week and haven’t played since last weekend’s Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe tournament. Dalton pitching had a little bit to do with it, too.”

By comparison, Dalton had four hits in the game and had at least one runner on base in four of the five innings. In three innings, the Lady Cats advanced a runner to scoring position. However, the key hit or error didn’t come and Northwest — which won the Class 4A state title last season — pushed its winning streak to 22 games dating to Sept. 24, 2012, when the Lady Bruins lost 7-4 to Class 5A’s Woodland-Bartow.

“We had a couple chances there,” Dalton coach Stacy Parker said, “but you can’t give a great team like Northwest anything. You definitely can’t make errors against them.”

In the third inning, Macy Weeks scored on a sacrifice fly by Payne and Ward’s two-out bunt single scored Gabbi Helton. Ward scored when Godfrey reached on another error.

Swinford pitched three innings and allowed two earned runs and three walks. Carson Roberts pitched one scoreless inning for Dalton, allowing one hit and striking out one.

Baggett pitched the entire game for Northwest, allowing three walks and striking out three.

“BriLeigh did her job on the mound,” Brooker said.

Each player in Northwest’s lineup reached base at least once. Godfrey walked and reached on two errors, Cruse went 2-for-3 with a double in addition to her home run and Ward walked and had a hit.

Kylee Harris was the only Dalton player to reach base twice. She singled and walked.