Softball Pulls Out Thrilling 1st-Round Victory
When host Southeast Guilford took a 3-2 lead in the bottom of the sixth inning, the Davie softball team was poised to have its heart broken in the first round of the 4-A playoffs.
But McKenzie Barneycastle, Morgan Hendrix, Abby Daniels, Sarah Myers and K’lea Parks wouldn’t let Davie be denied. Combine that with some clutch pitching from Julie Gough and a big defensive play from Makenzie Smith and the War Eagles emerged with a 4-3 win.
Coach Darby Beck was thrilled about the War Eagles’ first playoff win in four years and about taking out an opponent that tied for first in the Metro Conference.
“The girls played really, really good,” Beck said. “I think Southeast put West Forsyth out the last two years. They’re a really good team. That was a tough first round. That was a fun game to coach in and be apart of, no matter which way it went. They were really disappointed, but they know they played a good game and we did, too. It wasn’t sloppy. Both teams made plays.”
The War Eagles, however, couldn’t duplicate the performance in the second round, losing 8-3 at Porter Ridge.
At SE Guilford, the War Eagles got a superb effort from freshman cleanup batter K’lea Parks, who went 3 for 4 with a double to help Davie take out a team that went 9-1 in the Metro Conference to tie Southern Alamance for first. SEG, which finished 14-7, is a consistent winner, going 19-6, 20-7 and 25-4 the past three years.
The War Eagles, seeded third from the Central Piedmont Conference, notched their 17th win to give them the most Ws in 13 years, dating to a 20-2 campaign in ‘01. It was their first playoff triumph since a 9-0 win over South Meck in ‘10. In the 2011-13 first rounds, Davie lost 6-1 at Southern Alamance, 6-5 at Ardrey Kell and 6-1 at Ardrey Kell.
The game was scoreless for three innings as Myers and Falcons pitcher Ashton Pegram traded zeroes. But Parks sparked a Davie rally in the fourth, her leadoff double setting up the game’s first run.
“K’lea hit a bullet,” Beck said. “The fence is 220 and K’lea hit it off the fence (in the air). Any other park, it’s (an inside-the-park) home run. She ripped that ball.”
Smith was hit by a pitch. Then Elizabeth Holland brought Parks home with a single. Holland was ropped earlier in the game.
“In Holland’s first at-bat she hit a frozen rope (for an out),” Beck said. “It about took the girl’s glove off. She didn’t even know she had it in her glove. She absolutely crushed that ball.”
The Falcons put up two runs in the fifth to put Davie in a 2-1 deficit. But the War Eagles answered back in the sixth. Parks bounced sharply to third. A wide throw pulled the first baseman off the bag, and the ball popped out when Parks raced by and bumped the fielder. Smith laid down a sac bunt. Then Hannah Woody, who like Parks is a gifted freshman, steered a hard grounder between short and third to score Parks with the tying run.
“In her (previous) at-bat, Hannah hit a hard ball to the third baseman and got Hannah out,” Beck said. “The third baseman just had a good night. It’s the first time Hannah has started (on varsity). She’s a good ballplayer. She’s got a lot of potential.”
In a game rich in excitement, the Falcons regained a 3-2 lead in the last of the sixth. It could have been worse. The score was 3-2 when the Falcons had runners at second and third with one out. Gough, who pitched the last two innings to get the win, escaped further damage. She got a strikeout for the second out and a popup to herself for the third out.
The momentum shifted in Davie’s favor in the top of the seventh, with the War Eagles scoring twice to take the 4-3 lead.
Parks and Woody were just two of the freshmen stars. Another was McKenzie Barneycastle. She opened the seventh with a pinch-hit single. It was a soft slap to short, and the speedy Barneycastle legged it out.
“The day before Barneycastle was sick, so she didn’t start,” Beck said. “But we got her in the game eventually.”
The upperclassmen were instrumental in the outcome as well. Morgan Hendrix followed Barneycastle with a single up the middle, and Davie had something brewing.
“I walk halfway to the plate and the catcher hears me tell Morgan that I want her to sacrifice bunt,” Beck said. “In the process, I’m telling her I want a hard slap. So they all sucked in and Morgan drilled one up the middle. They didn’t expect that.”
Abby Daniels was next, and her sac bunt moved runners to second and third with one out.
“She laid a perfect bunt down and almost beat it out for a hit,” Beck said. “In my opinion, the play of the game was Abby getting the bunt down.”
Myers tied the game by hitting a deep fly to center that allowed Barneycastle to tag up and score. Then Parks provided the vital go-ahead hit.
“K’lea is actually under the weather a little bit, too,” Beck said. “She had just gotten cleared up from strep throat. I’m going to tell you, K’lea could be one of the best players ever to come through Davie County. That kid works hard and has a great attitude. She is really, really good. She’s a special kid.”
Davie was up 4-3, but it was far from over. SEG’s first batter of the seventh was its leadoff batter, and she was 3 for 3 when she stepped in the box to face Gough. Davie got a huge out as she grounded to first. The next batter, though, sent an opposite-field drive over Myers’ head in right. The result was a triple.
The tying run was 60 feet away, but lo and behold Gough withstood the rally. Smith, the second baseman, snared a liner for the second out. Gough retired the next batter to secure the breathtaking win.
“They hit a frozen rope to Makenzie,” Beck said. “She goes to her right and catches it waist-high. I mean it was a bullet.”
Myers got a no-decision, but she did her job, holding the Falcons to two runs over five innings. She didn’t walk a batter.
“She pitched a great game,” Beck said. “She hasn’t had but eight walks in 11 or 12 games. That’s pretty good. She got through the top four three times, and me and Johnny (Miller) talked about it and decided to give them a different look.”
Notes: Parks (3-4) and Woody (2-3) had multiple hits as Davie finished with 11 hits. … Davie had one error to SEG’s two. … Sophomore Lindsey Custer did the catching in place of freshman Kelsey Brown, who was sidelined by a season-ending injury. “Custer did a really good job,” Beck said. “She framed pitches really good, so we were pleased with that.”
Porter Ridge, Davie’s second-round opponent on the road, was a different animal. The War Eagles scored first but they never had much of a chance in an 8-3 defeat.
The Pirates, who ousted North Meck 11-1 in the first round, improved to 24-1. They swept through the Southwestern Conference at 13-0.
In the top of the first, Hendrix reached on an error, advanced to third on another error and scored on Daniels’ ground out. The rest of the game, though, belonged to Porter Ridge.
The Pirates used six hits to score four runs in the bottom of the first. They scored single runs in the second, third, fourth and fifth, and they had two-plus hits in each of the first four frames.
Barneycastle was 2 for 2 for a Davie team that managed just five hits. Olivia Boger pitched well in relief, giving up one run (unearned) in three innings.
Davie finished 17-8. Careers ended for five seniors – Daniels, Hendrix, Jenna Hummer, Allie Fruits and Holland.