TUNNEL HILL, Ga. - Rivals often bring out the best in each other. For the Northwest Whitfield and Heritage High School softball teams, though, it might just the opposite.
For the second time in under three weeks the two Region 7B-AAAA rivals, who happen to be the top two-ranked teams in the state, one-upped each other in the mistake department. And for the second time the Generals came out on top, winning 6-3 Thursday despite not having an earned run and despite committing four errors themselves.
"We came out awful tight and gave them some runs early," said Heritage coach Steve Chattin, whose team locked up the top seed for the region tournament. "I'm not sure that either team in the two times we've played has played like the No. 1- or No. 2-ranked team in the state. But we kept swinging the bat and kept battling."
The sloppy start, which began with Colbie Thomas' leadoff homer in the bottom of the first inning and concluded with two errors and two more runs, caused Chattin to go old-style on his young team. The subsequent chewing out, paired with junior Lauren Lawson's solid pitching, kept Heritage (22-5, 9-1) in the game.
"I was a little concerned before the game and thought we were a little uptight, so I tried to get that out of them and it didn't work," Chattin said. "I've probably yelled, pushed and prodded this team less than any team I've had here because of their maturity and the fact that very few times they've let me down, but after that first inning I felt we needed an adjustment."
A five-run fifth turned the game around. Northwest (23-4, 7-2) led 3-1 with two out and the the bases empty when the rally started on Lawson's popup that landed without anyone touching it on the infield. Shelby Hammontree followed with a hit, and Katie Pritchett made it 3-2 with a single to center field. A walk loaded the bases and the Lady Bruins appeared to get out of it when Brooklynn Frazier hit a high popup, but the ball was dropped, allowing the tying and go-ahead runs to score.
Krissi Prewitt followed with a two-run single to score the game's final runs.
"Whoever comes up with these rankings hasn't watched us play each other," said Northwest coach Jason Brooker, shaking his head. "I don't know what the deal is. We had battles last year with them and didn't play this way, and we've got more players back."
Lawson made the lead stand up, allowing only two singles and working around another error to seal the win. Like her coach, she felt the early wakeup call helped.
"We deserved him yelling at us," said Lawson, who held the potent Northwest bats to six hits. "We needed it, but we showed some heart tonight. It feels good to beat them twice this year, but we know we might face them in the region and hopefully in the state, so we can't get a big head about it."
Contact Lindsey Young at email@example.com or at 423-757-6296.