A third consecutive region championship was in the grasp for the Lady Bruins (28-6) on Saturday in Tunnel Hill.
All they needed was three outs before Heritage-Catoosa could score two runs. At worst, they could get three outs before three runs and live for another inning.
Things didn’t go the way Northwest wanted. Heritage scored three runs and walked off Saturday with an 8-7 win in eight innings.
Now the Lady Bruins must play a state game as something other than a No. 1 seed for the first time since 2010.
“It’s been bothering me, but you have to get over it and put it behind us,” Northwest coach Jason Brooker said. “It’s probably the toughest loss we’ve had, since it meant so much as far as seeding goes and hosting the first two rounds if you win.”
When the Lady Bruins take the field Wednesday, they will have spent four days thinking about what went wrong against the Lady Generals.
“The good thing about softball is you get back on the field pretty soon most of the time,” Brooker said. “We’re ready to get back out there, but it’s good to get some practice in and kind of fine-tune everything.”
However, not winning the region title is a disappointment that could be forgotten if other goals are reached. Northwest won the 2012 Class 4A state championship, and winning a second in a row is the primary goal, just as it was when the season began.
LaGrange (20-8, according to ga.prepcountry.com) is Region 5’s third seed. Last season, the Lady Grangers were swept from the first round of the state playoffs by Madison County, the team Northwest beat to win the state championship.
Winning a state title brings increased scrutiny for a team, and senior left fielder Macy Weeks doesn’t believe that will change just because the Lady Bruins didn’t win region.
“When the season begins, you realize everyone is gunning for you,” she said. “Everyone wants to beat the 2012 state champions. ... We’re going to get the best of each team we play.”
Brooker noted LaGrange’s pitcher, Emily Anderson, as a tough matchup. Anderson has a 17-4 record in 26 appearances and an earned-run average of 1.05, according to maxpreps.com.
“I think she’s going to Georgia Tech,” Brooker said of Anderson. “They are in a tough region. I’m thinking Region 7 and Region 5, one through four, are two of the best regions in the state.”