If BriLeigh Baggett feels any pressure following in the footsteps of one of the most dominating pitchers in Georgia high school fastpitch softball history, she doesn't show it. In fact, the Northwest Whitfield junior is almost too cool.
Baggett, who has replaced graduated four-year ace Emily Boyd in the circle for the Class AAAA defending state champions and top-ranked Lady Bruins, pitched perhaps her best game of the season Thursday at Ridgeland. Mixing a good curveball with an dominating riseball, Baggett limited the Lady Panthers to two hits while striking out nine in an 8-0 win, raising Northwest's record to 11-0 and 4-0 in Region 7B-AAAA.
"I wouldn't want to be the one replacing Emily Boyd, but it doesn't affect BriLeigh," Northwest coach Jason Brooker said. "She's pretty cool about everything and doesn't let things get to her. She's not going to strike out 15, so she knows the defense behind her is really good."
All aspects of the Lady Bruins' game was in top form Thursday. Northwest rapped out 12 hits, six of them for extra bases, including home runs by hot-hitting catcher Bayli Cruise and first baseman Macy Weeks. The lead was just 2-0 into the fifth inning as Ridgeland freshman pitcher Allison Wallin more than held her own.
However, Northwest erupted for five hits, and if not for having two runners thrown out at home, the inning would have been bigger than two runs. After scoring a single run in the sixth the Lady Bruins put the finishing touches in the seventh on Cruse's long leadoff blast and Weeks' two-run shot to left-center.
"We're swinging it well," Brooker said. "We had some bad at-bats tonight, but you have to give their pitcher credit for battling out there. It was good for BriLeigh to go seven innings. We like to win in five innings, sure, but down the line we're going to need her to go seven, probably Tuesday [against second-ranked Heritage]."
Despite the final score, Ridgeland first-year coach Richie Wood found some positives in his team's effort.
"Our freshman pitcher held her own pretty well, but we've just got to hit the ball," Wood said. "Once we quit making the mistakes we're making we'll be a solid ball team. They've got to learn to just play the game and not get down on themselves when something bad happens."
Weeks led the Northwest attack with three hits, with Cruse, Mallory Souther, Gabby Helton and Alyssa Ward getting two hits each.
Contact Lindsey Young at email@example.com or 423-757-6296.