northwood

Northwood coach B.J. Buchanan talks with Caroline Hayden during a recent game.

A neat sequence occurred during Northwood’s 12-1 win over Parry McCluer last week in the quarterfinals of the VHSL Class 1 state softball tournament.

Lauren Sword scored on a single by Lindsey Sword and Chloe Bordwine crossed the plate on a RBI groundout from Catie Bordwine during a victory-clinching six-run fourth inning as the sisterly sluggers shined.

Northwood (23-1) has three sets of sisters on its roster – the Swords, the Bordwines and the tandem of Nancy Jo Roberts and Caroline Roberts – but it turns out that all 13 players on the roster are part of one big happy family.

Northwood has a team batting average of .429.

The Panthers have a team ERA of 1.31.

They have outscored the opposition by a 215-32 margin.

Northwood is riding a 22-game winning streak.

Forget those numbers for a second, however, and consider that the most impressive trait of this group is team chemistry.

How tight-knit is this squad?

“This bunch is tighter than grandpa’s banjo strings,” said Northwood coach B.J. Buchanan. “They take care of each other on and off the field.”

The softball stars from Saltville hope to take care of business against the Rappahannock County Panthers (17-7) on Thursday in a state semifinal showdown on the campus of Radford University.

You better believe Northwood is ready.

“At the end of the day we all have one common interest at heart and that is to win this thing,” said leadoff hitter Alexis Woodward. “Not only for us, but everyone that’s supported us through this journey.”

But don’t think they won’t have some fun while attempting to complete the task at hand.

“I have never seen a team more closely bonded than ours,” Woodward said. “We joke around with each other all the time and we will even have roast sessions against each other, but at the end of the day we got each other’s back like no one else.”

Where did such a tight bond originate?

“Softball has always been our passion,” said Nancy Jo Roberts, the team’s ace pitcher.

It started when they were 9-years-old and they went to the Little League state tournament three years in a row. Then came travel-ball tournaments in Bristol, Johnson City and Kingsport and eventually bigger events in Charlotte, North Carolina, Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, and Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.

“Although we were intimidated in the beginning we actually went on to win some of those tournaments,” Roberts said. “Also, it seemed we were often underestimated by other teams. Perhaps due to our size and small stature, but as team went on, we learned we could play and hang with any of them.”

Rappahannock County will be the challengers for Northwood on Thursday.

While the two teams share the same nickname, the rosters are different.

Northwood has six seniors, but Rappahannock County does not have a single 12th-grader in its starting lineup, which consists of four sophomores, three freshmen and two juniors.

“I don’t know a lot about them,” Buchanan said. “They beat the defending state champs [Rappahannock] in the quarterfinals, so they must be a really solid team.”

Speaking of solid, those three sets of sisters can play.

“Lindsey Sword is the brains and Lauren Sword is the brawn. Lindsey is more of a vocal leader, while Lauren just smiles and enjoys life,” Buchanan said. “Catie and Chloe Bordwine have a long standing disagreement over who is the good Bordwine. Nancy Jo and Caroline both agree that their other sister, Kasey, is the favorite.”

They are just part of a bigger family. Call it a softball sorority.

“Honestly, we are all like sisters,” Catie Bordwine said. “Seeing as we all want the best for one another and will push each other.”

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thayes@bristolnews.com | Twitter:@Hayes_BHCSports | (276) 645-2570

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