By Drew Brantley
A second-round matchup at the Class 4A softball state tournament meeting between No. 1 Northwest Whitfield and No. 2 Madison County ended in a 8-7 Lady Bruins win in extra innings Thursday night at the South Commons Softball Complex.
That kind of battle seemed appropriate.
How the teams got there was not fitting of two top-ranked teams.
Northwest committed seven errors in the game, and Madison County used three pitchers and walked four Lady Bruins batters in the third.
In addition to the walks and errors, Lady Bruins starting pitcher Emily Boyd had trouble in the bottom of the seventh with the pitching rubber and walked the eventual tying run to tie the score at 3-3.
Each of the teams scored more runs in the final inning than they did in the previous seven.
But Boyd helped overcome that by helping Northwest to a five-run eighth by adding a three-run homer.
However the Lady Raiders, the team that denied the Lady Bruins a trips to Columbus with a second-round playoff sweep in 2010, seemed ready to claim another victory.
Madison County scored four runs in the bottom of the eighth, chasing Boyd after scoring one run with out and leaving the bases loaded. Brileigh Baggett pitched one out and allowed two runs, including a steal of home by Madison County on a phantom fourth-ball play.
The Lady Raiders’ Hayley Gordon trotted to first base after taking her third ball with the bases loaded.
Each of the runners, including Kayla Argo, advanced one base. Argo’s steal of home cut the lead to 8-6, and Bri Carr walked two batters later to score Abby Morgan.
Boyd re-entered the game in the circle and fielded the final out to clinch the victory.
Northwest advanced to the second round by beating Rutland 8-0 in a five-inning win shortened by the GHSA’s mercy rule.
Boyd had seven strikeouts and yielded one hit and one walk in a complete-game shutout.
Northwest will play West Laurens (29-10) — which beat Columbus 2-1 and South Effingham 5-1 in Thursday’s first two rounds — in the championship bracket final at 7 tonight. The winner of that game will need to win only once Saturday against the winner of the consolation bracket to claim the 4A crown.
This is the Lady Bruins’ third trip to Columbus in four seasons, and they have finished in the top four twice.
They were fourth a year ago and took third in 2009, when they made it to the consolation bracket final before falling.
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