Davie overcomes deficit at Butler

Published 9:23 am Thursday, May 18, 2017

When Butler doubled home the game’s first run in the bottom of the fourth inning, the Davie softball team’s streak of shutouts (six games) was over and Olivia Boger’s streak of scoreless innings (20) was gone.

And Davie was in a little trouble in the second-round road game on May 11.

But Davie responded to the adversity immediately, scoring five runs in the top of the fifth, a thunderous rally that sent the 11th-seeded War Eagles to a 6-1 win over the No. 8 Bulldogs in the round of 32.

Butler, which hammered High Point Central 12-0 in the first round, finished 17-8. Davie (22-4) won a second-round game for the second straight year and broke the school record for softball wins in the 42-year history of slowpitch and fastpitch. The 1984 slowpitch team went 21-2.

“I’m proud of the girls for the way they responded, because we hadn’t been down in a long time,” coach Dawn Lowery said. “We could have questioned ourselves or doubted ourselves, but we didn’t, and that’s what makes a great team.”

Davie failed to take control in the early going. In the second, Anna Devereaux singled. The next batter, K’lea Parks, bunted. The third baseman caught the bunt for an out and doubled up Devereaux at first.

“K’lea’s a great bunter, but the third baseman charged hard and K’lea got under it a little bit,” Lowery said. “It was one of those fluke things. (The third baseman) made a good play.”

In the fourth, Sierra Ferguson, who broke single-season and career records for homers in the first round against South Meck, drove a pitch deep, but watched it die in the outfielder’s glove at the warning track.

“It was hit high, unlike her typical balls that are hit like a laser,” Lowery said.

Davie’s workhorse pitcher, Olivia Boger, retired 11 of 12 batters before yielding a two-out walk to cleanup girl Kate Smith in the fourth. Sophomore Hannah Harmon made Boger pay, mashing an RBI double to give the Bulldogs the 1-0 lead. The next batter bounced out to second baseman Makenzie Smith.

It turned out to be Butler’s lone hit for the game. Boger set down 10 of the final 12 batters, the exceptions being a pair of walks.

“(Harmon) reached out and got a hold of it,” Lowery said. “Bridgett (Tierney) was playing shorter than maybe we normally do. It was a very fast runner on base (Smith) and she scored from first. Olivia said: ‘That’s not going to happen again.’”

“Olivia looked mad at herself,” Smith said. “Last year against A.L. Brown, we came back in the last inning (to win 9-7 after trailing 7-3), so none of us got scared or anything. I could tell Olivia was mad because we hadn’t let anyone score on us in (six games).”

The War Eagles, who were averaging 10.5 runs per game, found themselves behind for the first time since the April 26 game at North Davidson. Through four innings, Devereaux and Tierney had their only two hits.

“We were anxious to hit,” Parks said. “We were all on our front foot, swinging for the fence, and we weren’t waiting on the right pitch. But we ended up fixing that during the fifth.”

“Butler had a good game plan coming in,” Lowery said. “They kept the ball low on us, trying to get ground-ball outs, and the girls were overanxious. It just took us a little time to get adjusted. I’d like for it to happen in the first, second or third, obviously, but Butler did a good job preparing for us and we did a good job making adjustments.”

The high-powered War Eagles might have been staggered by Harmon’s haymaker, but they retaliated in a hurry. In the fifth, back-to-back hits by Parks and Jessie Beck drove a jolt of adrenaline through the War Eagles.

“I was not going to let this be my last game, so I tried my hardest,” Parks said.

“You could feel the tension and the pressure, but I was confident,” Lowery said. “Once K’lea led off with a single, I saw the confidence come right back into our team. She was a great leadoff hitter for me twice tonight.”

Butler’s Mackenzie Silvia, who lasted 4 2/3 innings, got a strikeout with Parks and Beck aboard, but Desiree Lewis returned the momentum to the visitors’ side with an infield hit to deep short. The bases were full with one out.

“I was thinking: ‘Do I bunt here or do I let Desiree swing?’” Lowery said. “I’m glad I let her swing because she hit the ball hard.”

Tierney changed Davie’s mojo for good with a two-run, go-ahead hit up the middle.

“I knew I had to be there for the team,” Tierney said. “We’re all there for each other, and I knew it was my time. I said: ‘Take a deep breath, take it all in, this is what we’re here for. Let’s show them what we can do.’ It was a really good feeling.”

McKenzie Barneycastle grounded to second, but it was a productive out that pushed Davie’s lead to 3-1. When Smith sent a laser beam over the shortstop, she had a double, Davie had a 4-1 lead and Silvia had hit the wall, getting replaced by Madison Thomas. Ferguson greeted the reliever with an RBI single to cap the five-run rally.

Smith smacked her second stand-up double in the seventh, this time with a shot over left fielder. Smith has been smashing everything in sight for some time, going 24 for 44 (.545) during a 14-game hitting streak that began March 30.

“I’ve never worked as hard in the offseason as I did this year,” Smith said. “It’s just coming together really well right now.”

“She’s hitting the ball so well that I’ve mostly been giving her the hit sign,” Lowery said.

Parks offered a punctuation mark in the sixth, delivering a thunderous shot to the trees. The solo homer was her second of the year and the team’s record-extending 28th. She became the sixth War Eagle to go yard multiple times.

“It was a very exciting moment,” Parks said. “I was going as hard as I could (running the bases). They told me it went pretty far. I’ve been in a little slump. I’ve been hitting the ball, but I know I can do better.”

“K’lea has been working hard – every practice, before every game,” Smith said. “She’s hitting before games because for a short time she felt like she was letting the team down because she wasn’t doing the normal K’lea.”

“She’s putting a lot of extra time in at the cage,” Lowery said. “She’s devoting a lot of time to her offensive game right now, and you can tell.”

Although Boger – who yielded four walks to Butler after issuing just two in her previous 17 innings – didn’t have her usual excellent control, she was still clicking at an elite level. Her one-hitter included eight Ks. She’s 17-4 with a gaudy 1.66 ERA.

“She’s pitching really, really well, and that’s not a secret to anybody,” Lowery said. “Olivia had more walks than she’s had over the last few games, but I’m not complaining about it one bit.”

Tierney (2-4), Smith (2-4) and Parks (2-3) paced Davie’s 10-hit offense. Ferguson (1-3, walk), Devereaux (1-4), Beck (1-3) and Lewis (1-3) had one hit apiece. The attack was supplemented by a flawless defense.

Notes: Remarkably, seven War Eagles are hitting .360 or better in this potent lineup. Ferguson stands at .582 with a 34-game hitting streak. Tierney (.464), Smith (.444), Barneycastle (.428), Parks (.422), Beck (.380) and Devereaux (.360) are the other top sticks. … The architect of the rise to the most softball wins in school history is Lowery, who is 58-22 in three years as coach. “She is always on our side,” Parks said. “She’s an amazing coach. I’ve been with her for seven years (counting North Davie Middle), and not one practice has she been down or didn’t believe in us. She’s always there to lift us up when we’re feeling down. Anyone is lucky to have her as a coach.” … Davie played a third-round game at No. 2 Richmond County on May 16. If Davie advanced, it plays at No. 6 Charlotte Catholic or No. 10 Mooresville on May 19.