Sports

October 18, 2012

On to Columbus

Northwest softball sweeps in second round

TUNNEL HILL — Northwest Whitfield shortstop Ashley Conner took it personal.

During the opening game of Wednesday night’s Class 4A second-round state playoff series with Carrollton, the Lady Trojans walked Northwest catcher Bayli Cruse to load the bases in the fourth inning, bringing Conner to the plate.

“I was a little mad,” Conner said. “When they walked Bayli to get to me, all I wanted was to hit it and hit it really hard.”

Conner delivered a stinger down the third-base line that went off the outstretched glove of Carrollton’s Shelby Yates to bring in a pair of runs to give the Lady Bruins a 4-0 lead.

With pitcher Emily Boyd getting stronger and stronger as the night went on, Conner’s moment was more than enough to push the Lady Bruins (31-3) to their third trip in four seasons to Columbus for the eight-team, double-elimination state tournament. Boyd struck out 21 in the doubleheader sweep of the best-of-three series as Northwest won 5-0 and 15-1.

“We’ve always wanted to be in this position,” Conner said. “Winning region and winning in the playoffs is cool to have, but we have always been focused on winning a state championship, and we have a good chance.”

The Lady Bruins, the top-ranked team in the Ga.PrepCountry.com coaches poll and the Region 7-4A champs, will open the tournament next Thursday at the South Commons Softball Complex. Carrollton (27-9) came into the series ranked sixth.

“We have been so close to winning in the past, and I don’t think that we will be satisfied without winning a ring,” said Boyd, who led the Lady Bruins to a fourth-place finish last year.

For first-year Northwest head coach Jason Brooker, giving his seniors a last chance at a state title is the best part of the return.

“They know that we don’t just want to get to Columbus,” Brooker said. “They are experienced, they have been there before and they are ready to go. They are ready for that challenge.”

Northwest got off to a fast start in the opening game with Cruse delivering a single to center to bring in Colbie Thomas, who had walked, for a 1-0 lead in the first inning.

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