October 6, 2013

Region softball: BriLeigh Baggett hot, but Northwest bats not

Devin Golden

— When needed, Northwest Whitfield High School softball coach Jason Brooker is confident the Lady Bruins will start hitting.

Until then, BriLeigh Baggett’s arm will have to do.

Baggett pitched a three-hit shutout, and North-west’s offense scraped together two runs to beat Pickens in the second round of Saturday’s Region 7-4A tournament at the Heritage Point softball complex in Dalton.

That game followed Pickens’ 5-4 first-round victory against Southeast Whitfield. Dalton also played two games, defeating Gilmer 6-4 but falling 11-2 to Heritage-Catoosa. Cass won 2-1 against LaFayette in the double-elimination tournament’s final first-round matchup but lost 4-1 against River Ridge in the second round. Ridge-land defeated Cedartown 5-4 in the last second-round game of the day.

The tournament continues on Monday and will run through the week.

In the bottom of the first inning, the Lady Bruins (25-4) looked like the hot-hitting team from last month that was averaging 8.86 runs per game after 23 games.

Colbie Thomas led off with a triple and later scored on Ashley Conner’s single.

Thomas finished 3-for-3 and twice more reached scoring position, but she didn’t receive another single from a teammate to bring her home. In the third inning, she started with a single and reached second base from Alyssa Ward’s sacrifice bunt but was stranded. In the fifth, she was the second of three straight singles to load the bases with no outs. However, Kari Henke helped Pickens (15-10) escape unscathed after three straight infield popups.

Northwest, the No. 2 seed from Sub-region B, stranded five runners in scoring position against Sub-region A No. 3 seed Pickens. Of the Lady Bruins’ eight hits against the Lady Dragons, Thomas’ first-inning triple was the only extra-base hit. Since a 9-1 loss to Calhoun on Sept. 16, Northwest has scored just 16 runs in the last six games, an average of 2.67 runs per contest.

“They will come through when we need them,” Brooker said. “Today was BriLeigh’s day.”

Yes, it was.

Baggett struck out four of the first five batters faced and finished with 11 strikeouts and no walks.

This was her first game since Monday’s perfect game against Southeast.

While she only needed one run, Northwest gave her an extra one in the fourth without the ball leaving the infield. Macy Weeks reached on an infield single, stole second base, moved to third on a groundout and scored on a passed ball for a 2-0 lead.

“She has been doing really well,” Thomas said of Baggett. “Our bats are going to come. I have trust in that. But she’s doing so well and we let her down because we’re not hitting as well as we should be.”

For the second straight game, Ward hit second in the batting order. Hannah Godfrey hit in that spot for most of the season and all of last year when Northwest won the Region 7 championship and Class 4A state title. She hit sixth the past two games.

“Alyssa is hitting over .500 and has been batting No. 9 all year,” Brooker said. “We’re just trying to mix it up a little bit. Plus, with Hannah’s experience, having her at No. 6 is like having another leadoff hitter in the middle of the order.”

Northwest plays 7A’s No. 1 seed, River Ridge, Monday at 7 p.m. Pickens will play at 7 p.m. in the loser’s bracket against the winner of Gilmer and Cass, which play at 5 p.m.

n The Lady Cats (10-18) started their tournament with a comeback victory against Gilmer, Sub-region A’s No. 4 seed.

Dalton’s Hailey Jones hit a two-run home run in the fifth inning to grab a 5-4 lead. Gabby Wright went 2-for-4 and Kylee Harris had a three-hit game. Christen Pender went 4-for-4 with an RBI, while Hannah Jones and Blayne Thomason each contributed RBI for the Lady Cats, who entered as Sub-region B’s No. 5 seed.

Alli Swinford pitched all seven innings, allowing two earned runs off six hits and one walk while striking out seven.

“The win puts us to double-digit wins for the season, which was big for us,” Dalton coach Stacy Parker said.

In the second game, Dalton fell behind 8-0 as Heritage, B’s top seed, scored runs in each of its four at-bats and won via mercy rule in five innings.

Carson Roberts had an RBI single in the fourth and Helton walked to drive in the Lady Cats’ second run. Swinford allowed seven earned runs off 10 hits while striking out three. With the loss, Dalton must win three straight games in the loser’s bracket to reach the final four and clinch a spot in the Class 4A state tournament. The Lady Cats play the Lady Raiders Monday at 5 p.m. in an elimination matchup. The winner faces the winner of LaFayette and Cedartown at 7 p.m.

“It’s a tougher position, but the girls have to be ready to play,” Parker said.

Heritage (23-5) advances to face Ridgeland, B’s No. 3 seed, at 7 p.m.

n Southeast rallied in the top of the seventh inning but came up one run short.

Trailing 5-3 with no runners on base and two outs, Madison Pearson beat out a grounder to shortstop. Chaya Drury followed with a hit to right-center field to score Pearson, but Drury tried to turn a double into a triple and was thrown out to end the game.

Drury finished 4-for-4 while Lily Johnson had a two-hit game. Sydney Covington pitched all six innings, allowing two earned runs off eight hits and two walks. She struck out four.

The Lady Raiders (7-18) entered as 7B’s No. 6 seed.

Region 5-3A tournament

• North Murray was the only local team to play and win two games Saturday at Hamilton Crossing in Adairsville, and the Lady Mountaineers are now one win away from clinching their third consecutive trip to the state playoffs.

North Murray beat Adairsville 9-1 and then upset Coahulla Creek 3-0.

In the win against the No. 3-seed Lady Colts, Baylee Sutton hit a two-run home run following Megan Pittman’s triple and Samantha Stafford’s RBI single during a three-run first inning for the fifth-seeded Lady Mountaineers (13-15). Pittman finished 3-for-4, and Sarah Silvers ended the game 2-for-3.

North Murray coach Steve Granger said getting an early lead helped her pitcher, Kara Deal.

“When you get a three-run lead early in the game, as a pitcher you have a little more confidence throwing pitches,” Granger said. “You think, ‘If I miss right here, I still have a lead.’ I think it gives her confidence.”

Deal pitched the entire game, allowing just three hits while walking two and striking out four.

“I can’t say enough about Kara keeping them off balance. I think having a three-run lead helps with her using all her pitches and keeping the other team off balance.”

Shelbe Dilbeck pitched the entire game for third-seeded Coahulla Creek (18-7). She allowed two earned runs off six hits while striking out three. Haley Reece was 2-for-3.

“We had a couple opportunities but we couldn’t get that big hit and left a few runners on,” Lady Colts coach Josh Swiney said. “Their pitcher threw well tonight.

“We hit a few balls hard, but a lot of times it just went right to the fielders.”

Coahulla Creek will play Gordon Central, the No. 7 seed, Monday at 7 p.m.

In North Murray’s first win, which ended after six innings via mercy rule, Deal pitched five innings and allowed one run off three hits and four walks while striking out four. Sutton pitched the final inning, allowing three walks while striking out two.

Pittman had three runs scored, two doubles and one RBI. Deal was 2-for-4 with an RBI. Katlin Epps finished 2-for-4 with two RBIs. McChaela Cochran went 3-for-3. Amber Bandy added a triple.

“I definitely think being able to get out there and see some live action played to our benefit going into that second game,” Granger said.

North Murray will play No. 2 seed Cartersville at 5 p.m. Monday.

Region 7-2A tournament

• Murray County won once and lost once at Alto Park, and the Lady Indians now must win Monday to earn a spot in the Class 2A state playoffs.

Murray County beat Chattooga 3-0 in the first round thanks to the combined shutout from Whitney Gribble and Lindsey Dunn. The Lady Indians’ Shea Pendley and Kaitlyn Sims each had two hits while Ariel Smith went 1-for-2.

An 8-0 loss to Calhoun followed, and Murray County only tallied one hit. The Lady Indians (14-16) will play Pepperell at 5 p.m