Softball upsets West Forsyth, North Davidson

Published 9:57 am Thursday, April 23, 2015

You’d probably better take this sitting down. Find a chair. Take a cold drink of water. Brace yourself. Clear your head.

Believe it or not, Davie’s varsity softball team upset unbeaten West Forsyth, ranked third in the 4-A state, by a score of 4-1 Friday in Clemmons. The Titans were 16-0 overall and 8-0 in the Central Piedmont Conference. In the first meeting at Rich Park, they pounded Davie 8-3 as Davie was outhit 12-4 and was suffocated by pitcher Brooke Perry. West had won four straight and eight of nine in the series.

Believe it or not, the next day Davie upset visiting North Davidson, ranked ninth in the state, by a score of 7-5. The Black Knights were 12-2. They belted Davie 10-0 in the first meeting while outhitting the War Eagles 10-2. They had won 34 straight in the series. The infamous Davie streak included 19 shutouts, six defeats by 10-plus runs and a running score of North 255, Davie 23.

Believe it or not, the War Eagles are a North win over West from ending up in a three-way tie for first in the Central Piedmont Conference – if, of course, they take care of business against the other league teams.

Who could explain this? No one could have predicted this tremendous feat because the War Eagles had lost four of six before Friday. They were sputtering at 8-6 and it seemed as though it was going to be the same old, same old in the CPC – North or West in first and Davie in third. Now Davie is suddenly hotter than a dragon’s breath.

“The loss to West Rowan and the West Brunswick beach tournament were the lowest points in our season,” first-year coach Dawn Lowery said. “We were playing below-average softball. After our (10-0) loss to Richmond (County), we had a team meeting. We let the girls express themselves and hashed it out for a while. The coaches left and made the players talk it out. We laid everything out there. They knew going into this week it was the make-or-break point of our season. We knew North and West were probably thinking it would be a piece of cake to beat an 8-6 team. We knew we had to improve all aspects of our game.

“Plain and simple – it clicked for us this week. We played really well. We played hard and played for the team. I didn’t notice anyone playing selfishly or concerned about their own stats. They did what the coaches asked of them and wanted to win for their team. And, man, it was a great day to be a War Eagle.”

What a transformation (an incredible transformation when you consider the bulk of the lineup includes freshmen and sophomores). Davie went from desperation mode to season validation. The five-day episode (Tuesday’s game with North was suspended in the fifth and completed on Saturday) will be remembered for a long time. It will be told and retold for years and years.

“It’s several little things,” pitching coach Johnny Miller said. “Our pitching got a little better. Our fielding has gotten a little better. And our hitting has gotten a little better. You put those three things together, it’s a huge difference.”

“I tried to emphasize to the girls to remember this feeling,” Lowery said. “Remember how proud you are to be a War Eagle. Remember what it feels like to beat two of the best teams in the state back to back. Once you get that feeling, you want it over and over. We are one of those good teams. When we believe in ourselves and have a desire to win, we will experience that feeling more often than not.”

The major reversal began at West Forsyth. Davie junior Julie Gough outdueled Perry and Davie never trailed in the 4-1 win over the undefeated Titans.

Even though Gough’s record (3-1) paled in comparison to Perry’s (8-0), she went all seven innings, checked West on six hits, allowed one run (it was unearned) and didn’t issue a walk.

Gough retired the side in order in the third, then faced four batters in each of the final four innings. A 6-4-3 double play (shortstop K’lea Parks to second baseman Makenzie Smith) offset West’s two hits in the fourth.

“She pitched an absolute gem,” Miller said.

“Julie was on another level,” Lowery said. “It is by far the greatest game I have ever witnessed her pitch, and I’ve coached her since North Davie. I didn’t even talk to her during the game because she was in the zone and I wasn’t going to mess with that. She has the capability of pitching like that and being that dominant every game. My hopes are it’s just the beginning for her. To hold that team to six hits was a win within itself in my book.”

Although Davie struck out 10 times against Perry, it produced one run in the second and three in the third. In the second, Sarah Myers led off with a triple and scored on Parks’ one-out infield hit. In the last of the second, West reached on an error and scored on a sac fly.

“This was one of the most nerve-wracking games I’ve ever coached,” Lowery said. “Not because I doubted my team for a second, but because I knew West has the capability to come back on a team in a heartbeat.”

In the big third, McKenzie Barneycastle led off with a single, but was erased by a caught stealing. No matter. Bridgett Tierney (single), Smith (single) and Myers (walk) reached. Jessie Beck plated Tierney with a grounder. Parks brought Smith home with a single. And Sierra Ferguson scored Myers with a grounder.

Davie only managed one more hit – Kelsey Brown’s pinch-hit single in the sixth – but the damage had been done.

Parks went 2 for 3 with two RBIs as Davie outhit West 8-6. Davie triumphed even though West played error-free defense. It was Davie’s first win at West since a 4-1 decision in 2012 when Caroline Miller pitched a complete game.

To add perspective to this accomplishment, West beat North 4-1 in late March to end two enormous streaks for the Black Knights – 53-game winning streak in the regular season and the first loss in Welcome since March 12, 2012.

“We wanted this game in a bad way,” Lowery said. “We knew they were at the top of their game, (but) it was just our turn to make something happen.”

It’s difficult to exaggerate the significance of the 7-5, spanned-over-five-days win over North Davidson.

Davie had not beaten North since 2001. It was the most runs against North in 40 games, dating to a 12-0 rout in 1998 when freshman Shannon Handy pitched a shutout. Davie had been outscored 28-0 in the previous three meetings. Think about that.

Pitcher Olivia Boger (seven innings, seven strikeouts), Smith (3 for 3, two RBIs) and Myers (2-3, two RBIs, triple) connected the dots as Davie knocked off the storied program with the winningest coach in state history (Mike Lambros has 800-plus wins at North).

“This has been a long time coming,” Lowery said. “I could tell on Tuesday there was something else in the girls’ eyes. They had a look I hadn’t seen yet this season. It fired me up just watching them warm up.”

Boger wasn’t intimidated even though she’s a sophomore who came in with a 3-2 record.

“Olivia was a beast,” Lowery said. “She wanted this game just as bad as anyone else on the team. When she gets that attitude, she’s hard to stop. She really came through for us.”

Davie seized control immediately, scoring four runs in the bottom of the first and three in the second.

In the first, Barneycastle bunted her way on, Tierney walked and Smith singled. Then came an RBI single by Myers and a run-scoring sac bunt by Beck. Two runs scored on an outfield error.

Four more hits in the second chased North starter Casey Stanek, who lasted 1.2 innings. Ferguson singled with one out. Tierney singled with two outs. Smith supplied a two-run single, then scored on Myers’ triple.

Smith’s single in the fifth was Davie’s only other hit, but the 7-0 bulge proved too much for North, which dropped to 12-3, 6-2.

“When we came out 7-0, I knew it was going to be one for the record books,” Lowery said. “Again, I didn’t count North out until that very last pitch. We not only came to play against them, we came to finish.

“Offensively, we had some girls really step up to the challenge. Smith and Myers were unmatched. They stepped in the box with confidence and a swag that you can’t teach. It was purely about their desire to win.”

Boger had a one-hitter for three innings, but the Black Knights cut the margin to 7-2 in the fourth. They kept coming in the fifth, shaving their deficit to 7-5. Due to lightning, the game was suspended with two outs, a runner at first and a 3-1 count. It resumed four days later.

“Everything about this game was wild – the quick offensive start for us, the weather suspension, it hanging over the girls’ heads for three and a half days, beating West Forsyth before we even finished the game with North,” Lowery said. “You can’t make that stuff up.

“Some people were fired up about the game getting suspended when it did. We just kept telling the girls that it was supposed to happen that way because it would feel so much better when we beat them in seven innings instead of five.”

If Smith and Parks don’t snare liners, this game could really have gotten hairy. In the sixth, Smith caught a bullet for the first out. The next batter singled, but the next two hit weak popups.

North opened the seventh with a double, bringing the tying run to the plate, but Davie fans felt goosebumps when Boger caught the next batter looking at strike three. A laser was sent to Parks. She had a choice: Eat it or catch it. She caught it, then dove unsuccessfully trying to double up the runner at second. The punctuation mark: Boger fanned the final batter on three pitches.

“North came out Saturday with guns blazing,” Lowery said after Davie improved to 10-6, 5-2. “They were trying to ruin what we worked so hard for on Tuesday. We didn’t flinch.”

The hits were 9-8 in North’s favor. North made one error, while Davie was flawless in the field. If North beats West in the final week of the regular season, there will likely be a three-way tie for first.