From Staff Reports
Once again, Northwest Whitfield is the last local high school softball team left standing.
And once more the Lady Bruins are preparing for a trip to Columbus.
Northwest swept Marist in Atlanta on Wednesday, winning 6-0 and 4-2 in the second round of the Class 4A state playoffs. With the best-of-three series victory, the Lady Bruins (32-6) clinched one of the eight berths to the Class 4A double-elimination state tournament, set for Oct. 31 through Nov. 2 in Columbus. It’s the fourth tournament appearance in five years for Northwest, which won the title last year.
North Murray, the only other team from Murray or Whitfield counties to advance to the state playoffs, was swept 5-0 and 11-0 at Franklin County in the second round of the Class 3A bracket.
In Northwest’s first win, pitcher BriLeigh Baggett allowed just three hits and struck out 12 in a complete-game effort.
In the top of the second inning, Northwest scored its first runs on Colbie Thomas’ two-RBI triple. Hannah Godfrey, the next batter, singled to bring Thomas home for a 3-0 lead. In the fourth, Ashley Conner walked with the bases loaded to bring home Alyssa Ward, while Macy Weeks added a two-run single.
In the second game, Bayli Cruse started the bottom of the fourth inning with a solo home run off Marist’s Liz Kiely to give North-west a 1-0 lead. Conner followed with a double, moved to third on a groundout from Weeks and scored on a wild pitch for a 2-0 Lady Bruins lead.
“She left a few up and we hit the mistakes,” Northwest coach Jason Brooker said of Kiely. “Throughout the year, a lot of times we didn’t capitalize when the other pitcher made a mistake.”
Marist (20-13), the Region 6 champion, tied the game in the sixth with a two-run homer from Kendall Chadwick. Conner’s two-run homer in the bottom of the sixth gave the lead back to Northwest, which qualified for the playoffs as Region 7’s No. 2 seed.
“Our 3, 4 and 5 hitters (Cruse, Conner and Weeks) did well,” Brooker said. “That’s encouraging to see.”
Baggett again pitched the complete game, allowing two earned runs on four hits and two walks while striking out four.
Northwest plays Wayne County on Oct. 31 in the first round of the state tournament.
• In Carnesville, North Murray (17-20) allowed all five of the first game’s runs in the first two innings and only had one hit, a single from Megan Pittman.
Franklin County, the Region 8 champion, took advantage of errors from North Murray and pushed across just one earned run against pitcher Kara Deal, who threw five innings and allowed five hits while striking out one and walking one. Baylee Sutton pitched the sixth and seventh innings for the Lady Mountaineers, who qualified for state as Region 5’s runner-up after entering the league tournament as the No. 5 seed.
In the second game, Franklin County scored one run in the second inning, five in the fourth, one in the fifth and ended the game via mercy rule with four runs in the sixth.
Sutton pitched four innings, allowing one earned run on four hits and four walks. Deal pitched two innings, allowing five runs on six hits and two walks. Pittman had North Murray’s only two hits.
“We had a few errors in both games that were kind of costly,” North Murray coach Steve Granger said. “We weren’t able to overcome those and didn’t put the bat on the ball.”
The Lady Mountaineers reached the state playoffs for a third consecutive year but have yet to make it to Columbus for the state tournament.
“These girls, they never cease to amaze me,” Granger said. “They always battled. Tonight we just weren’t able to overcome.”