Jason Brooker wouldn't go so far as to say his team's tough loss last week was a good thing, but one of his Northwest Whitfield senior softball stars believes it might be the best thing that could happen to the defending Class AAAA state champions.
Shortstop Ashley Conner, whose seventh-inning throwing error was the final play in the Lady Bruins' Region 7-AAAA loss to Heritage on Tuesday, said the defeat helped re-focus the top-ranked team. It showed this weekend as Northwest had a strong showing in the SCORE International Tournament at Warner Park.
After rolling through Dalton, Prince Avenue Christian and Calhoun by a combined score of 30-6 on Friday, the Lady Bruins (18-2) won 8-0 over a strong Woodland team from Henry County in five innings Saturday morning.
"We're a little hungrier now," said Conner, who had two doubles against Woodland and knocked in three runs. "I think we may have gotten a little content with ourselves and felt we were too good to lose. Well, we lost and now we realize that, and we know we have to bear down now. There are plenty of good teams out there, and we have to play well to beat them."
Sophomore pitcher Madison Gowin, the team's No. 2 starter, limited Woodland to four hits, and the Lady Bruins played errorless ball. After scoring two runs in the second inning on a walk, an error and two wild pitches, Northwest got going offensively in the fourth. A hit by pitch, a bunt single and a single loaded the bases after an out. Hannah Godfrey singled in one run, and Conner lined a two-out three-run double to right-center to make it a runaway.
Brooker naturally was pleased with the way the Lady Bruins rebounded after they lost to Heritage despite leading by three in the final inning.
"Woodland can swing the bat, but Madison did what she does, which is hit her spots and make them put it in play," he said. "She's throwing three games in this tournament, so this gives her good experience. We want to win, but the young girls need the experience.
"With our seniors, they've been through all kinds of situations over the last three years, so they can handle it. We had a good talk at practice Wednesday, and they're focused and ready for the stretch run."
Colbie Thomas and Alyssa Ward joined Conner with two hits each Saturday morning.
Contact Lindsey Young at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 423-757-6296.