Broncos fall short
Kennesaw Mountain sweeps Brookwood

SNELLVILLE - Brookwood came into its first-round Class AAAAA state playoff series with Kennesaw Mountain playing some of its best softball of the season.

The Broncos had used plenty of clutch hitting and defense to roll to the Region 8-AAAAA title last week, but Tuesday, it was the visiting Mustangs who outdid them in both categories.

KMHS made several stellar plays in the field, while the middle of its batting order came up with huge hits in both games to help the Mustangs pull away from the Broncos down the stretch for a 4-2 and 4-0 sweep at Brookwood.

"We hit the ball hard in a lot of key situations," Brookwood coach Bill Batchelor said after his team's season was ended at 21-13. "(KMHS) made plays, or we hit it right to them. It's just disappointing (because) we came in playing the best we've played all year. ... But the kids fought the whole way."

That effort was apparent in the bottom of the third of the opener.

With two outs and runners on first and third, Jessica Neidigh sent what appeared to be a routine grounder to short.

But the speedy shortstop beat the throw for a hit, allowing Hill to trot home with the game's first run.

The Broncos extended their lead to 2-0 on Julia Westbrook's single and an outfield error, but KMHS answered with the first of its clutch hits in the fifth.

After pulling to within 2-1 on Lizzie Statham's fielder's choice grounder, Kaylee Williams came up with the bases loaded and promptly unloaded them with a three-run double to left-center, vaulting the Mustangs into a 4-2 lead.

That seemed to energize pitcher Jamie Thomas (17-6), who set down 12 of the last 13 hitters she faced - including five of her six strikeouts on the game - to give KMHS a 1-0 lead in the series.

Brookwood looked like it might take another early lead in the top of the first of the nightcap.

The Broncos loaded the bases on Norris' lead-off hit, Neidigh's sacrifice bunt an intentional walk to Westbrook and a fielder's choice grounder to the mound by Brandi Jones in which Norris beat Thomas' throw to third.

Mandy Blackwell then ripped a liner to the right side that looked like it might get through to the outfield, but Krista Kennedy dove to her right and snagged the liner, and threw on to third to double up Norris and end the thread.

"I said to the girls before (the games) that great defense and good at bats will win us a ball game," KMHS coach Lisa Chapman said.

After getting the former in the top of the first, the Mustangs then got the latter in the bottom of the inning as Morgan Bell's two-out, two-run double gave them a 2-0 lead after Jones (15-9) had retired the first two hitters in order.

Kennedy then added an RBI with her squeeze bunt in the fifth and then drew a throw to second with aggressive baserunning to allow Statham to sprint home with an insurance run that made it 4-0.

Brookwood had plenty of chances to answer all evening, putting at least one runner on base in every inning of Game 2.

But Thomas was able to strand nine Broncos on the game, aided with some clutch defense - like Statham's diving catch of Blackwell's liner leading off the sixth, helping the Mustangs (21-9) advance to the second round to play either Peachtree Ridge or Walton.