NORTHWEST WHITFIELD 3, POPE 1
Pope - 010 - 000 - 0 - 1 - 1 - 0
Northwest - 200 - 010 - x - 3 - 6 - 1
WP: Emily Boyd, 0 ER. LP: Marisa Boyette. 2B: Colbie Thomas, Carly Henson (NW). Other highlights: Hannah Godfrey 2-2, 2 runs, 2 SBs; McKinley Poteet 2-3; Mykeah Johnson, Ashley Conner, Bayli Cruse RBI each (NW). Record: Northwest 27-7.
RINGGOLD 6, CARROLLTON 2
Ringgold - 002 - 220 - 0 - 6 - 12 - 2
Carrolton - 001 - 001 - 0 - 2 - 3 - 2
WP: Kensey Sholl (13-6), 3 H. LP: Randi Phillips. HR: Erica Bynum (R); McDaniel (C). 2B: Jessica Goldsmith, Bynum (R). Other highlights: Bynum 3-3, 2 RBIs, 2 runs; Adrian Thornton, Sholl each 2-3; Goldsmith 2-4. Record: Ringgold 24-12.
TUNNEL HILL, Ga. - Shane Ramsey is a firm believer in the motto "Don't think; just do it."
The Northwest Whitfield softball coach wants his players to keep the game simple, something he stressed before Friday afternoon's deciding game three of the Lady Bruins' Class AAAA second-round playoff series with Pope High of Marietta.
Northwest used an aggressive approach to score two early runs and the strong pitching of junior ace Emily Boyd to down the Greyhounds 3-1.
The Lady Bruins (27-7) advance to the Elite Eight in Columbus beginning next Thursday, the second time in three seasons Ramsey's team has qualified.
"We talked about it after we lost the first game last night that we wanted to be aggressive because we had nothing to lose, and if we're aggressive we don't think too much," Ramsey said. "We played small ball because we wanted to score at every opportunity, so we were going to shorten the game a bit."
A Colbie Thomas leadoff double, two walks and two illegal pitches called on Pope's Marisa Boyette contributed to the two-run first inning. Mykeah Johnson drove in one on a groundout, Thomas sprinting home despite the ground ball hit right at the third baseman, and Ashley Conner got the other home on a squeeze bunt.
Pope (25-8-1) got one run back in the second on a walk, a wild pitch and a Northwest error. The game was nearly tied in the fourth, but Northwest left fielder Macy Weeks threw out Pope's Laura Bell at the plate following a one-out single by Laura Miller.
"That play was huge," Ramsey said. "I tell them all the time that I want them to want the ball hit to them, and they've done that all year. Macy made a great throw."
It would be the last scoring opportunity the visitors would have. Boyd, who walked six in the first-game loss Wednesday, walked three early Thursday as she struggled to find a consistent strike zone. After making a slight adjustment following Pope's fourth-inning threat, Boyd retired the final 10 batters to complete a one-hitter.
"The strike zone has been tight every game so far in the playoffs, so I realized I had to let my defense work today and let them hit it," Boyd said. "It's a tough way to go about it, but If I have to do that I'll do it. I had to find some control, so I started throwing more curveballs and it worked."
Northwest added an insurance run in the fifth when Hannah Godfrey singled, stole second and eventually scored on Bayli Cruse's groundout. It was another aggressive inning in a postseason Ramsey hopes contains many more.
"We're one step closer to what we want," he said. "We wanted to win region and we did, and we wanted to give ourselves a chance to get to Columbus and we did. Now the season starts over."
* Ringgold 6, Carrollton 2: At Carrollton, the Lady Tigers joined Catoosa County neighbors Heritage and Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe, Northwest Whitfield, Fannin County and defending Class A champion Gordon Lee in planning Columbus itineraries with a 6-2 third-game win Friday.
Kensey Sholl pitched a three-hitter and Erica Bynum went 3-for-3 with a homer, a double, two RBIs and two runs for Ringgold (24-12), which faces Cross Creek in the Class AAA Elite Eight next Thursday.