By Devin Golden
Bayli Cruse was happy being named the Georgia Athletic Coaches Association Class 4A Softball Player of the Year — and rightfully so.
But she was equally interested — and equally pleased — in which of her Northwest Whitfield teammates joined her on the squad.
After learning she won player of the year, she asked Lady Bruins coach Jason Brooker which of the fellow Class 4A state champions also received recognition. The senior catcher is joined on the first team by pitcher BriLeigh Baggett, center fielder Colbie Thomas and shortstop Ashley Conner. Left fielder Macy Weeks made the second team for a second straight year.
“I’m not a big bragger on anything I do,” said Cruse, who is a three-time member of the all-state team. “I like for other people to make it as well. I don’t like people bragging on me; they do it all the time. I like seeing other people do well. I was very happy BriLeigh made it.”
Shea Pendley, Murray County’s junior shortstop, made the Class 2A second team.
The team wasn’t published on the GACA’s website, but Northwest coach Jason Brooker told The Daily Citizen via email Wednesday which of his players made the team. Past teams have been posted on Ga.PrepCountry.com.
The Daily Citizen’s All-Area Softball Team and Player of the Year is expected to be published in Sunday’s edition.
“One of the first things she asked me was who else made it,” Brooker said of Cruse. “That shows she obviously cares about who made the team. It wasn’t just about her.”
In November, Northwest won back-to-back state titles — beating rival Heritage-Catoosa twice in the state tournament. Heritage coach Steve Chattin represented Region 7-4A — which includes Northwest along with Dalton and Southeast Whitfield — at the voting meeting since the Lady Generals won the region title.
Each classification’s first team includes a player of the year and a pitcher of the year, plus five infielders, four outfielders, three pitchers and two catchers. Northwest makes up 25 percent of the 16-player team.
“It just shows the talent we had,” Brooker said. “It doesn’t matter who is coaching. If you don’t have talent, you won’t go far. People can say what they want about chemistry and working hard. You need those things, but you also need talent.
“That’s a good combination.”
Last season, Emily Boyd represented Northwest as the all-state pitcher of the year.
Cruse said she was “shocked” to learn she won player of the year. She hit .464 this season with 10 home runs, 62 RBIs, 21 doubles and a .833 slugging percentage. All those stats are team bests.
“Before the season, I set realistic goals and unrealistic goals,” she said. “Making player of the year ... was one of my unrealistic ones. Attaining that kind of shocked me. I had a feeling I’d be close, but I didn’t know I’d get it.”
Thomas and Conner also are seniors and both made the team for a second time. Baggett is a junior.
Thomas hit .374 from the leadoff spot with 20 stolen bases and 11 triples. She had an on-base-plus-slugging percentage of 1.021. Conner hit .357 with 27 RBIs and 16 doubles. Baggett finished the year with a 28-6 record, 2.01 ERA, 203 strikeouts and 223 innings pitched.
Weeks, another senior, hit .376 with 40 RBIs and 16 stolen bases.
Murray County’s Pendley hit .386 with 18 RBIs and 13 doubles. Her on-base-plus-slugging percentage was 1.010.