November 1, 2013

State softball: Northwest, Heritage meeting yet again

From Staff Reports

— The road to defending the Class 4A state softball title will run down a familiar path for the Northwest Whitfield High School Lady Bruins.

Northwest and Heritage-Catoosa will meet for the sixth time this season after both teams swept a pair of games at the Class 4A state softball tournament at the South Commons Complex in Columbus.

The Lady Bruins, winners of the title last year in Columbus, have lost four times to the Lady Generals this year — twice in the regular season and twice in the Region 7 tournament. Northwest’s lone win was a 4-3 victory in the region tournament to force a deciding championship game, which the Lady Generals won 8-7.

Northwest (34-6) advanced to today’s 7 p.m. winner’s bracket final with a 5-0 win over Madison County in Thursday’s late game as junior pitcher BriLeigh Baggett pitched a no-hitter and was one late walk away from a perfect game. The Lady Bruins had advanced to the game with Madison County after a 3-1 win over Wayne County in the opening game.

“There isn’t much you can say about playing Heritage again,” Northwest coach Jason Brooker said. “We expect a good game and just have to make the plays and get some hits. The key has been the defense.”

Baggett wasn’t overpowering against Madison County with just two strikeouts, but her defense was stellar behind her. In the two games Thursday, the Lady Bruins played errorless ball.

Catcher Bayli Cruse was 2-for-4 with a double and a pair of runs batted in, while Macy Weeks was also 2-for-4. Ashley Conner was 1-for-2 with a two-run single in the sixth, and Colbie Thomas had a triple and a run scored.

Madison County had rallied from a 3-1 deficit in its opener to take a 5-3 win over Woodland-Henry. In the other winner’s bracket semifinal, Heritage (32-7) beat Walnut Grove 7-1. The Lady Generals beat Perry 2-0 in their opener, while Walnut Grove run-ruled South Effingham, 12-0.

The victor of tonight’s Heritage-Northwest games advances to Saturday’s noon championship game.

Madison County falls into the loser’s bracket and will play the winner of South Effingham and Perry at 3:30 p.m. today. If they win, they will play in the loser’s bracket semifinal at 7 p.m.

In the opening win over Region 3 runner-up Wayne County, the Lady Bruins scored three runs on three hits in the top of the fourth to take a 3-0 lead, and Baggett allowed just two hits to take the victory.

In the fourth, Cruse got a one-out single, and Conner hit a double to drive in courtesy runner McCall Carlock for a 1-0 lead. Weeks reached base on an error, and after a fielder’s choice off the bat of Mallory Souther, Alyssa Ward loaded the bases by drawing a walk after fouling off five two-strike pitches. Baggett followed with a two-run single to give the Lady Bruins enough offense.

“We had some good at bats to get runners on base, and then we had two big hits, and that was all that we needed,” Brooker said. “We played good defense with no errors.”

Baggett was perfect through 3 1/3 innings of work before giving up a solo homer to Hannah Farrell, but she shut down the Lady Yellow Jackets the rest of the way with good defense behind her.

“It wasn’t anything spectacular on defense, but they made all of the routine plays and didn’t give Wayne County anything,” Brooker said.

The Lady Yellow Jackets (29-5) play in an elimination game against Woodland-Henry this morning at 11 with the winner advancing to face Walnut Grove at 3 p.m.