With a team made up of freshmen and sophomores, Northwest Whitfield softball coach Shane Ramsey had to handle his team with kid gloves a year ago. Well, the gloves are off this season and Ramsey isn't settling for mediocre play from his state-ranked Class AAAA team.
The Lady Bruins found that out Saturday at the SCORE International Tournament at Warner Park after a lackluster effort in an upset loss to Class AA's Blessed Trinity. They followed that up with a solid 3-0 six-inning win over a ranked Calhoun team, giving Northwest a 4-1 record in the two-day tournament and a 20-5 season mark.
"As bad as we looked in the Blessed Trinity game, I'm proud they came back and played well against a good Calhoun team," Ramsey said. "It was like a postseason game. With this group I've really preached to them to stay focused each game, each pitch. We didn't do that earlier, but we did in against Calhoun."
That game was scoreless as Northwest ace Emily Boyd and Calhoun counterpart Alyssa Shawgo combined to give up a combined one hit through five innings. In the sixth, though, three Northwest singles, including a pair of infield safeties, loaded the bases with no outs. Mykeah Johnson worked Shawgo for a seven-pitch walk to break the tie, and Bayli Cruse singled in another. The third run came on a double-play grounder.
Boyd did not waste the runs, though she did allow a single to Morgan Stewart to open the bottom of the sixth. The junior got the next three in order, including her seventh strikeout of the game to improve to 19-4 on the season.
"Emily was great and she's been like that all year," Ramsey said. "Offensively we found a way to score some runs.
"We're close to where we want to be. We're notorious slow starters and we usually come on about this time of the year, but this year we started strong and have been able to maintain it."
Boyd, the Best of Preps All-North Georgia Player of the Year as a freshman, agreed with her coach.
"It's nice to see how we can fight against really good competition," she said. "Yesterday we did everything really well, but we slacked off earlier today with our hitting. The big thing is to see how you handle pressure when it's put on you in these type of games, so that when there really is pressure in the postseason you'll be able to handle it.
"We're really close, and I think we'll keep getting better."