October 28, 2012

That was a blast: Cruses walk-off HR leads Lady Bruins to softball state title

COLUMBUS — Madison County went with the conservative approach to manufacture its first and only run in Saturday’s Class 4A softball state championship.

Northwest Whitfield was rewarded for being aggressive in response.

On the second pitch in the bottom of the eighth inning, Lady Bruins junior catcher Bayli Cruse launched a line drive to the deepest part of the field, straightaway center, but all that mattered was that the ball landed on the other side of the fence at the South Commons Softball Complex.

The walk-off, two-run home run gave the Lady Bruins a 2-1 win and the first fast-pitch softball state title in school history.

After seven scoreless innings from both sides, the Lady Red Raiders scored in the eighth, when the international tiebreaker — which places the player who made the last out in the previous inning — went into effect. Brianne Carr advanced to third on a sacrifice bunt, then scored two batters later on Jessica Allen’s grounder to second baseman Karlie Henson.

Needing a score to avoid heading to a do-or-die second game in the double-elimination tournament, Northwest (35-3) could’ve used the same small-ball approach taken by Madison County (33-8). With Hannah Godfrey starting the inning on second, a successful sacrifice bunt would have moved her to third and anything but a strikeout or shallow popup most likely would have scored a run.

Instead, Cruse, the team’s top power hitter, was granted the chance to swing away.

“We talked about it,” Northwest coach Jason Brooker said. “We had our Nos. 3, 4 and 5 coming up, and I kind of depend on one of them to get a hit. We talked about bunting and trying to bunt (Godfrey) in, but they’re a good team, and it would take a great bunt to get her in.

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