TUNNEL HILL, Ga. -- It's not uncommon for softball teams with elite pitchers to get caught flat-footed defensively at times. Northwest Whitfield is no different, but when the Lady Bruins need a big defensive play, they more often than not produce it.
Tuesday's 4-0 Region 7B-AAAA win over Heritage was a prime example as Northwest cut down two runners at the plate to preserve yet another gem from senior ace Emily Boyd. Staying sharp behind the Ole Miss recruit is something first-year coach Jason Brooker stresses.
"It's easy for us to get in a lull and watch Emily pitch," Brooker said. "Tonight we didn't, and those plays were key. Emily was on again, and I guess we're spoiled, but it was nice to get those plays."
Boyd struck out nine and allowed six hits, all six coming in pairs in three innings. With Northwest ahead 1-0 in the top of the second, the Generals' Taylor Moran doubled to center with one out and a runner at first. The Lady Bruins (18-2, 5-0) executed the relay perfectly, though, and cut the runner down at home for the second out, and Boyd was able to end the threat with a strikeout.
Trailing 3-0 in the fifth, Heritage (15-4-1, 4-2) got back-to-back one-out singles from Moran and Katie Pritchett to put runners on third and first. A Boyd wild pitch went to the fence, but junior catcher Bayli Cruse pounced on it and fed Boyd a perfect throw to catch the runner trying to score.
"We made some nice plays tonight," Cruse said. "I try to help keep the girls up so we can support Emily."
Cruse also did some damage at the plate, going 3-for-4, including a two-run single in the second for the 3-0 lead. She had doubled and scored the game's first run in the first inning on Macy Weeks' bases-loaded walk.
Boyd worked through two hits and an error in the seventh inning to complete the shutout.
The win gives the top-ranked Lady Bruins a regular-season sweep of the third-ranked Generals, though both coaches believe they haven't seen the last of one another.
"This is a nice win, but we'll probably have to beat them two more times in the region tournament," Brooker said. "It does give us a little cushion, but we can't relax."
Added Heritage coach Steve Chattin: "It's like I told my team, if we stay together and play as we can, we could see them two more times in the region tournament and maybe even in the state tournament. They're ranked No. 1 for a reason, but we're a good team, too."
Contact Lindsey Young at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 423-757-6296.