Broome can really fly

SUWANEE - Whenever the North Gwinnett softball team feels the need for speed, the Bulldogs know where to turn.

It has always been a big part of Brittany Broome's athletic career at the Suwanee school, and it's a big reason the junior outfielder/pitcher has been a major force in bringing the Bulldogs to the brink of another the Class AAAAA state sectional tournament berth. North defeated South Forsyth 10-2 in its Region 7-AAAAA tournament opener on Monday. Broome had three stolen bases in the game.

Broome's speed is not limited to the basepaths and outfield of the softball diamond.

She's also a sprinter on North's girls track and field team, which included a fourth- and fifth-place finish respectively in the 100- and 200-meter dashes in last spring's Gwinnett County Championships before a hip flexor injury prematurely ended her season.

Her speed has put the school's records in both events - which have stood for nearly 30 years - within her reach.

But make no mistake, softball is her first love, and it is the sport in which she makes a big difference on the basepaths, though she admits, playing more than one sport benefits the other.

"Training for track really helps me with baserunning," Broome said. "Speed definitely sets me apart from other (softball) players. It's a key element in my game."

It's also a key element in the Bulldogs' offense that averages 4.6 runs per game.

Entering Monday's game, Broome was hitting .368 with two doubles, a triple, four RBIs and a .461 on-base percentage in 76 at-bats.

But it's what Broome is able to do when she reaches base that really ignites the North Gwinnett batting order.

She has stolen 32 bases - on a pace to better her school-record 36 that she stole last year if the Bulldogs can at least make the sectionals - and has scored 30 runs, nearly 25 percent of the team's total.

"When she leads off and gets on, we usually score," North coach Randy Black said. "She's got good (No.) 2, 3 and 4 hitters hitting behind her, and they can really do some damage when she's on.

"She's definitely one of the top five athletes I've ever coached, and she's definitely a team player. She does what it takes to win."

Sometimes, it also includes using the speed of her fastball - and other pitches - in the pitching circle, where the right-hander has posted a 5-5 record with a 1.58 earned run average, four saves and 46 strikeouts in 62 innings - primarily out of the bullpen.

"She adds to our starters," Black said of Broome, who has made six starts in her 17 appearances this season. "And she really shuts the door for us in the late innings."

Pitching is a role Broome admits she isn't necessarily used to, though it is one she says she is willing to fill whenever the need arises.

"With my travel team, I play outfield only," said Broome, who plays with the East Cobb Bullets 18-U Gold team in Marietta during the summer, and has already attracted interest from college programs like Georgia Tech, Mississippi State, Auburn, Ole Miss and Georgia. "When I come to high school ball, it's totally different.

"Pitching is so much more stressful. It's so much more to deal with, but whatever I can do to help the team, I'll do."