Softball loses slugfest

Published 8:24 am Thursday, April 13, 2017

When undefeated Alexander Central stared down Davie’s varsity softball team Saturday in Taylorsville, the War Eagles stared back.

If there’s such a thing as an encouraging excruciating loss, this was it. Central outlasted Davie 8-7 in eight innings. The Cougars are ranked No. 2 in the state by, and they are the No. 1 4-A team.

“We’re very evenly matched,” coach Dawn Lowery said. “If we play that team 10 times, I think we win six. Saturday just wasn’t in the cards for us to win, but I hope we learned a lot from it.”

Davie has three losses, and they’re all to powerhouse teams. Forbush is 11-0, North Davidson is 14-2 and Alexander Central is 19-0 after beating Ledford 7-2 later in the day.

But before going toe to toe with Central, Davie overmatched visiting West Forsyth, 5-0, on April 7 to complete a regular-season sweep. Before this season, Davie had lost six of seven to the Titans.

Davie’s offense did all the damage in a five-run second. Sierra Ferguson smacked the first pitch for an opposite-field single to left, and she took second on an error. After Jessie Beck’s one-out bunt hit, Desiree Lewis roped a run-scoring single up the middle. The second run scored on Emilee Dishman’s ground out. Sydney Hendren reached on an error to bring in a run. Bridgett Tierney blistered a single to center. Then Anna Devereaux rifled a two-run double to right-center.

Tierney and Devereaux had two hits each, and there was nothing cheap about them. “They’re a good 1-2 punch at the top of the lineup,” Lowery said.

But no one had a harder hit than Makenzie Smith, the No. 3 batter who sent a shot past the third baseman in the fifth.

“The girl didn’t even have time to get her glove up,” Lowery said. “Kenzie has that capability every time.”

Davie mashed the ball several times despite failing to score in 5 of 6 at-bats. It remained in second place in the Central Piedmont Conference at 7-1, one game behind 8-0 North Davidson. Meanwhile, West (10-7, 4-4) suffered its third straight loss and its fourth defeat in five games.

Olivia Boger pitched beautifully. The lefty permitted four hits, walked one and struck out 11 in a 106-pitch, 73-strike complete game. Her second shutout improved her record to 9-2 and lowered her ERA to 2.01.

“West has some really good hitters,” Lowery said. “It’s not like she had 11 strikeouts against a team that is not much competition.”

But the best part of the night was the season debut for senior McKenzie Barneycastle, an excellent player who had to miss the first 13 games after undergoing surgery to remove a benign brain tumor on March 6. Thirty-two days later, she appeared for the first time as a courtesy runner in the five-run second.

The lefty outfielder and speedster put up 39 hits in 2016, tying for third on the single-season list. She hit a robust .453. She was a varsity starter from 2014-16. In November she signed with Newberry (S.C.).

She had a heartwarming first at-bat in the sixth. Despite having to knock off rust, push away butterflies and falling behind in the count 0-2, she connected sharply on a ground out to short.

“She has high expectations of herself and she wants to pick up right where she left off (last year),” Lowery said. “She’s doing well in practice and she hit the ball hard. It was just good to get her out there.

“That was real special. The whole night was really dedicated to her and doing whatever we could as a community to raise money for them. The fact that she was released and ready to play made it more special.”


Less than 12 hours after the West game, visiting Davie took on Alexander Central. Despite the quick turnaround, Davie withstood every haymaker – except the last one in the bottom of the eighth, when the Cougars won it 8-7 on a walk-off hit.

Davie’s seven-game winning streak died, but at least it made the Cougars sweat. They own eight shutout wins. They were allowing just 2.1 runs per game. The only team to score more runs against them was Lake Norman in an 15-9 loss.

“You come out to win and you expect to win. We came up short,” Lowery said. “It’s hard to say: ‘It’s OK that we didn’t win.’ It was a moral victory. Hopefully it gave us some confidence.”

It was a roller-coaster slugfest. Central scored the first two runs in the bottom of the first, but Davie answered with two in the second. Central cleanup batter Kendra Mayes clubbed a two-run homer in the third as part of a 4-for-4 day.

Davie countered with a three-spot in the fifth. After Tierney (error) and Devereaux (single) reached, Smith came through with an RBI single. Ferguson reached on an error, Devereaux scored on a passed ball, and K’lea Parks, Jessie Beck and Lewis walked in succession to force in a run. Davie had a 5-4 lead.

In the fifth, a walk, single, single and double sent Central in front 6-5. When Davie rallied for a 7-6 lead in the sixth, fans on the orange side were thinking: ‘This could be one I’ll always remember.”

Devereaux’s ground out moved Hendren to third and Tierney to second. Ferguson added the punctuation mark with a two-run single to left.

“The coaching staff was proud of the way we fought back and battled the whole game,” Lowery said. “We made huge defensive plays late in the game that kept us in it.”

In the sixth, the first Cougar reached on an error. Mayes’ one-out single tied the game. A two-out single by Alexis Walter, who went 4 for 5, could have put Central back on top, but Devereaux conjured the first magical defensive play by throwing out the runner at home. No cutoff was needed. She threw a strike to catcher Hendren.

“Anna came up slinging and Sydney did a great job at the plate,” Lowery said. “It really wasn’t close. Perfect throw, perfect tag. All of our outfielders, including Barneycastle and Dishman, have great arms. I’ve wanted them to be tested and see what they could do. To have a play unfold like that is really promising.”

In the bottom of the seventh, a double and two walks loaded the bases with one out. With the No. 2 batter up, Davie was in deep trouble. A popup to shortstop Lewis gave Davie two outs. The next batter flared one to right and Beck made a spectacular catch to keep Davie alive.

“Jessie’s catch was an all-out, do-or-die, guts play,” Lowery said. “It was awesome. She dove head first.”

Relief pitcher Mayes retired seven straight batters through the Davie eighth, and Central pushed across the clinching run in the bottom half. Mayes – she was everywhere – walked on a fullcount pitch, and a passed ball put her in scoring position. With one out, Walter – two Cougars accounted for eight of their 13 hits – knocked in Mayes with a single.

Davie lost a big-time struggle, but it left with good vibes. Boger was running on fumes, but she managed to hang tough through 176 pitches.

“Olivia didn’t have her top game, but she still said: ‘I’ve got this,’” Lowery said. “She threw a lot of pitches and she said: ‘I’m confident in my defense and my ability.’ That’s why we left her in. They hit the ball well, but good teams are going to do that.”

Notes: It was Davie’s second extra-inning battle in four games. It beat Ledford 4-2 in 10 innings. … Central avenged last year’s 8-7 loss to Davie. It was Davie’s first-ever win in the series. … Ferguson is hitting .613 with a 23-game hitting streak. Tierney his hitting .543 with a 14-game hitting streak. Devereaux is hitting .418.