Staff Photo: Brendan Sullivan . North Gwinnett Draven Sonnon (99) makes contact with the ball against Lambert during high school softball Class AAAAAA State Playoff action at North Gwinnett High School in Suwanee on Wednesday. North Gwinnett defeated Lambert 8-0 in game one.
SUWANEE -- Ultimately, North Gwinnett's softball team came up short of their ultimate goals for the 2012 season -- a trip to the Class AAAAAA state tournament in Columbus and a chance to play for a state championship.
But that doesn't mean the season was a disappointment for the Bulldogs, whose campaign came to an end Wednesday with losses of 5-1 and 7-2 to No. 2 state-ranked Archer in a second-round state playoff series.
"I think I (said) a long time ago, if things go right, we've got a chance," North coach Randy Black said after Wednesday's games. "The kids played well to come back. Nobody thought we had a chance to win the region."
But the Bulldogs took advantage of their chances enough to reach a couple of milestones during their 22-9-2 season.
The most important of those milestones include not only winning Region 7-AAAAAA's regular season championship, but also reversing recent trends by coming up big during the region tournament.
The result was overcoming a loss in the opening game of the best-of-three championship series to sweep Peachtree Ridge in the next two games behind the hitting and pitching of Kinsley Jennings and the hitting of Ashley Stephan and take their first region title in eight years.
"We've won the regular season championship five or six times over the last eight years," Black said after the Bulldogs' win over Peachtree Ridge on Oct. 3. "Then we'd get into the (tournament) and we (let it slip away). So, this feels real good."
It especially felt good for North's six seniors, all of which played a major role in the team's success this season.
And the Bulldogs will certainly miss the contributions of Katie Black, Alaina Hall, Mallory Koepke, Kendall McKinney, Amanda Shimmin and Stephan.
"The kids played hard this year," Black said of his seniors. "They're a good group of kids."
So is this year's junior, which will make up the core of next year's team that will try to take the next step back towards the state tournament.
And that core seems pretty balanced, with Jennings and Hannah Harrison each having plenty of experience in the circle, while Georgia Tech-committed outfielder Draven Sonnon and catcher Moriah Strother possess big bats to bolster the batting order.
"We've got the two pitchers -- both are juniors (coming back)," Black said. "Strother, she's pretty tough. And Draven Sonnon is committed to Tech. She's five-tool, in my opinion. She can throw, hit -- everything. So, it's a good group coming back."