RINGGOLD, Ga. -- Most high school softball games pitting two highly ranked teams are tight-knit contests decided by one or two plays. While Thursday night's 4-2 win by Northwest Whitfield over Heritage had its tight moments, it basically was decided in the first two innings by the ultra-aggressive Lady Bruins.
Northwest, 7-0 and ranked fifth in the Class AAAA coaches poll, hit the third-ranked Generals (6-1) with four early runs, knocked out Heritage starter Lauren Lawson and gave their star pitcher a big boost of confidence at the same time. Repeatedly pouncing on Lawson's first pitch, Northwest plated a run in the first inning on three hits and put three more on the board in the second on three more.
"That's our thing, to come out and jump on them and be aggressive," said leadoff hitter Colbie Thomas, whose two-run triple in the second was the biggest hit of the game. "We came in with high expectations and we wanted to get to them early. Of course, this was a big region game and our expectations are getting higher and higher."
Senior ace Emily Boyd, who admittedly has struggled with control early in the season, worked around two unearned runs in the second to quiet a potent Heritage lineup. Though she had only one 1-2-3 inning -- a three-strikeout seventh inning -- Boyd was in complete control with seven strikeouts and just four hits allowed.
"I've struggled with confidence this year," Boyd said. "I've had it some innings and then I would lose it, and when I lose it my control suffers and I'm not as aggressive. I've worked on that, not letting myself get down, and so far it's helped. I've been kind of fatigued coming in right from summer ball, but I'm starting to feel better."
Macy Weeks drove home Northwest's first run. Following Thomas' two-run triple in the second, Ashley Conner doubled to plate Thomas for a 4-0 lead. Freshman Taylor Moran relieved Lawson and held the Lady Bruins to two hits the rest of the way.
Heritage cut the lead in half as Shelby Hammontree's sacrifice fly and a Northwest error made it 4-2 in the bottom of the second. There were other chances, but Boyd bore down when she needed to, holding the Generals' second through fifth hitters to a combined 2-for-9.
"I hope we learn from this and be ready the next time we face them, especially with four of my top 10 players being freshmen," Heritage coach Steve Chattin said. "I don't want to be overly critical of my players, but their studs basically outplayed our studs. When Emily needed to make a big pitch, she made a big pitch, and when they needed a big hit their studs got them."
Thomas, Conner and Carly Henson each had two hits for the Lady Bruins.
Lindsey Young is a sports writer at the Chattanooga Times Free Press who started work at the Chattanooga News-Free Press 24 years ago. He covers the Northwest Georgia prep beat and NASCAR. Lindsey’s hometown is Ringgold, Ga., and he graduated from Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe High School. He received an associate’s degree from Dalton Junior College (now Dalton State) and a bachelor’s degree in communications from UTC. He has won several writing awards, including two Tennessee Sports ...