Brookwood escapes early trouble to sweep Peachtree Ridge

SNELLVILLE -- Any team that has played Brookwood's softball team this season knows that it must take care of any scoring opportunity it gets -- especially early -- to have any chance to knock off the top-ranked Broncos.

Peachtree Ridge had such chances in the early innings of both ends of its doubleheader in the first round of the Class AAAAA state playoffs Wednesday.

But Brookwood pitchers Brandi Jones and Rachel Hill were able to escape those early jams, and the two hurlers got stronger as each game progressed, while the Broncos' offense made the visiting Lions pay for those missed opportunities to come away with a sweep by scores of 7-0 and 6-1.

"We knew (Peachtree Ridge) was going to put (early) pressure on us," Brookwood coach Bill Batchelor said after the Broncos (32-5) advanced to the second round, where they will host either North Forsyth or Cherokee next Wednesday. "Our pitchers have done that all year because they've got all the confidence in the world in their defense."

The Brookwood defense was solid most of the night, but it was Jones (20-3) and Hill (11-1) who did a lot of of the heavy lifting early in each game.

In the opener, Jones had to work around her own wildness in the first after issuing first-inning walks to Sam Pierannunzi and Kayla Jones, but escaped unscathed by striking out Ashley Sawdey with runners on first and third with two outs.

She then limited Peachtree Ridge (18-16) to just two hits and struck out six over the next five shutout innings, while her offense -- specifically, Mandy Blackwell -- gave her runs to play with.

The junior catcher belted a three-run home run -- her fifth of the season -- with one out in the third that put the Broncos up for good at 3-0, and then added a two-run double as part of a three-run sixth that added a little insurance and extended the lead to 7-0.

Hill then came on to retire the Lions in order in the seventh to secure the Game 1 victory before having work through some early-inning trouble of the nightcap.

An error allowed Peachtree Ridge leadoff hitter Maiah Johnson to reach, but the senior right-hander kept the game scoreless.

But after Emily Brantley gave her a 2-0 lead with her two-run single over a drawn-in infield in the top of the second, Hill had to work even harder in the bottom of the inning to keep Brookwood in front.

A leadoff single by Sarah Walker and an error on Sawdey's grounder put runners on first and second with nobody out.

After Andie McGregor sacrificed the runners over to second and third, Brandi Mason drove in courtesy runner Kendra Purifoye with a ground out to second, pulling Peachtree Ridge to within 2-1 and leaving the potential tying run at third.

But Hill induced an inning-ending fly ball to center to keep the Broncos in front and keep the Lions frustrated.

"We couldn't get a timely hit (Wednesday) night, and we botched some plays (in the field) we usually make," Peachtree Ridge coach Bubba Wilson said. "You can't give a team like that extra outs. It's a tough (first-round) draw. They've got a really good team. ... You don't have room for mistakes against a team like that."

Brookwood drove home that point further when Megan Litumbe blasted her seventh homer of the season -- a two-run shot in the third -- and added two more runs on Daniella Ulloa's RBI single and a wild pitch in the sixth.

And Hill made the lead stand up, going the distance and allowing five hits and the one unearned run with three strikeouts.

Mandy Blackwell finished the day 4-for-7 with five RBIs, while Jones and Susan Norris and Ambree Muller each added three hits, while Jenny Blackwell, Ulloa and Brantley chipped in two hits apiece.

McGregor finished the day 2-for-4 with a walk and a sacrifice to pace the Peachtree Ridge offense, while Quinn Hill turned in a solid pitching performance out of the bullpen, giving up just four hits and two runs with four strikeouts over the final 4 innings.