Softball torches West

Published 9:51 am Thursday, March 23, 2017



Officially, it was a Central Piedmont Conference softball game between visiting Davie and West Forsyth. Unofficially, it was the Makenzie Smith Show.

Smith torched the Titans with four hits and six RBIs as Davie stacked 14 runs on the defending 4-A champion on March 14. After losing six of seven and 10 of 12 in the series, the War Eagles exorcised a demon with a 14-2, six-inning rout.

“It was about making a statement for the rest of the year, because it was a tone-setter beating them,” Smith said after Davie improved to 5-1 overall and 3-0 in the CPC. The Titans fell to 5-2, 1-1.

“Tonight was domination,” Davie pitcher Olivia Boger said. “I mean it was so amazing.”

Six days earlier, Davie was punished 10-0 at Forbush. This took some of the sting off the awful day in East Bend, and moments like this were exactly what Davie coach Dawn Lowery envisioned for an experienced team with five college signees (one of them, McKenzie Barneycastle, is recovering from surgery to remove a benign brain tumor) and five more college commitments.

“We definitely used that (Forbush) game as a learning experience,” Lowery said. “We had 16 hits against a good team. That speaks well for what we’ve been doing in practice.”

The weather was brutal, with the temperature at 38 and gusting winds.

Both teams put up two runs in their first at-bats, with Davie mixing first-inning singles from Bridgett Tierney, Anna Deveraux, Desiree Lewis and K’lea Parks with Smith’s RBI ground out. West countered with two unearned runs on a two-out hit.

Parks’ sac fly gave Davie a 3-2 lead in the third, a rally sparked by back-to-back singles from Smith and Ferguson.

“I love my team to death,” said Boger, who went the distance in the circle. “I knew that it was going to happen. There wasn’t a doubt in my mind that they were going to give me some run support. I’m blessed with such great girls – talented girls – and I trust them completely.”

In the fourth, Emilee Dishman (single), Tierney (single) and Devereaux reached to load the bases for Smith, who entered the game with an uncharacteristic .230 average (3 for 13).

As a sophomore, Smith led the team in doubles (seven) and was second in RBIs (21). As a junior, she cranked three home runs and was first in RBIs (26) and walks/HBPs (12). The Appalachian State signee’s senior coming-out party inspired the largest win over West in Davie’s 21-year history of fastpitch. With the bases full in the fourth, she cleared the bags with a double over the right fielder’s head.

“I thought it was gone at first,” Lowery said. “It was definitely a game-changing play.

“She’s been hitting the ball hard. She puts a lot of pressure on herself sometimes. She doesn’t accept failure. That’s a good thing, but at the same time, it sometimes creates more pressure than need be. She’s one of our strongest hitters for sure. She put in a lot of work in the offseason. She’s very disciplined at the plate. She knows a lot about the offensive part of the game, and she was a big-time player in a big-time game.”

Lewis followed with a single that plated Smith for a 7-2 bulge. With the way Boger was dealing, everybody knew at that point  that it was all but over.

“This team is different,” Smith said. “I’ve never played with a team that has each other’s back like this. We feed off each other. If one of us gets started, it’s going to be so hard to stop us.”

Davie put up a three-spot in the fifth, when Dishman singled with one out and Devereaux reached on a two-out error. With the count full to Smith, she uncorked a rocket double that plated one. Ferguson’s single made it 10-2.

“I know this pitcher (sophomore Alex Rodriguez), and I know she thinks I can’t hit a changeup,” Smith said. “She pitched me a changeup and I really work on that. My whole team does. We had been preaching that, and we worked on it yesterday. I sat back on it and I honestly couldn’t tell you where I hit that. I was told it hit the fence. I just gave it a hard cut and ran.

“I actually work out with (Rodriguez) in the summer in Winston. I really respect her. She’s a hard-working girl.”

Smith capped her monster day with a run-scoring single in the sixth, finishing 4 for 5 with three runs, two doubles and six RBIs and raising her average 158 points to .388. And, oh yeah: It was the most hits for a War Eagle in 33 games, dating to Tierney’s four in a 10-1 win over Central Davidson in the ‘16 opener. It was the most RBIs in 13 games. Ferguson had seven in an 8-7 win at Alexander Central on April 23, 2016.

But Davie has a kitchen drawer full of sharp offensive knives. Ferguson went 3 for 5 with two RBIs to lift her average to .611 (11 for 18) and extend her hitting streak to 14 games. Tierney went 2 for 3 with three runs to raise her average to .529 (9-17) and extend her hitting streak to six. Lewis went 2 for 4.

“Davie is a very experienced team,” West coach Kevin Baity told the Winston-Salem Journal. “I think they have a good shot at making a run this year.”

Boger dialed in after the first, blanking West for five straight innings to lower her ERA to 1.55. She walked none, struck out eight and threw 66 strikes in 88 pitches.

“We shook off (the two-run first) and we bucked up,” Boger said. “Our team motto this year is: ‘It’s not about me, it’s about we.’ And that’s exactly what we did tonight. We played as a team.

“When the sun was going down, it got really, really cold. It’s hard to spin the ball whenever your fingers are frozen. If the wind’s blowing in and toward home plate, the rise ball doesn’t want to rise. Tonight we were fortunate the wind was blowing toward the outfield, so the rise ball was working. You’ve just got to keep blowing on your fingers – keep the fingers loose and warm so you can spin the ball.”

Between the third and sixth, the Titans didn’t get a runner past first. West’s Nos. 3-4 batters going 0 for 6 symbolized Boger’s effectiveness. Courtney Lamb went 0 for 3 with two strikeouts. Anna Epling, who has signed with East Carolina, went 0 for 3 with a strikeout and two popouts.

“When you can hold the other team’s best hitters to no hits, it says: ‘I’m here to play today,’” Lowery said.

Just about everything that could have gone right did so. Did we mention that sophomore Sydney Wyatt came out of nowhere for her first varsity hit – and first varsity homer – during Davie’s four-run sixth?

Relief pitcher Jenna Cartwright beaned Parks. Lowery summoned Wyatt, who was 0 for 9 on the year. Boom, she rode the second pitch over the center-field fence for a two-run homer, the team’s eighth long ball in six games. She’s the fifth different War Eagle to go deep.

“I called it,” Smith said. “I told the whole team she was going to hit it out. We’re all confident in each other, and she’s a hard-working girl. She has always had power. She’s very different from her sister (assistant coach Morgan Wyatt), but she can hit the ball.”

“That’s my girl,” Boger said. “I think she was a little nervous going in, but she did amazing. When she got in the dugout, she couldn’t quit smiling. Coach Mo called it. She said: ‘Second pitch is going out.’ And it happened.”

Morgan is arguably the greatest hitter in Davie’s fastpitch archives. She holds records for career RBIs (91 from 2007-10), season average (.542 in 2009), season homers (nine in 2009) and career homers (13), and she’s second in career hits (129).

“Hopefully it runs in the family,” Sydney said. “I would like to achieve that goal, but I’m just striving for getting on base, helping the team score runs and being a contributing factor.”

Sydney said it was her first homer since her South Davie seventh-grade season against North Davidson.

“When I heard I was hitting, I was like: ‘I’ve got to get my timing down right. I’ve just go to relax and don’t be anxious about it,’” Sydney said. “My sister said: ‘When you find your pitch, hack at it.’ The first one was a ball and I was like: ‘OK, I think I’ve got my timing down.’ I didn’t even know it was out. I was just running and coach (Debbie) Evans said: ‘Hold up.’”

“I know it’s tough coming off the bench in a pinch-hitting situation,” Morgan said. “It happened to me at Western (Carolina). It can be really tough, especially with the weather like it was. But she capitalized on it and I’m proud of her.”

Notes: Last year West beat Davie 11-2 and 5-3. … In the fastpitch era, Davie has three double-figure wins over West. The others: 13-3 in 1998 and 13-3 in 2013. … Barneycastle will be out another six weeks or so, so a return late in the regular season or in the playoffs is not out of the question. “She is doing very good,” Smith said. “She’s one of our five seniors and we love her.” Lowery said: “If it’s up to Barney, she will be (back before season’s end). She’s a fighter. I know she’s going to do everything in her power to be out here, but obviously her health is most important.”