Solid softball season ends in second round
By Brian Pitts
Northwest Guilford’s softball team was 9-1 with the lone loss on opening day against North Davidson. During a nine-game winning streak, the Vikings had suffocated opponents 123-2 as they averaged 13.6 runs during the blistering stretch.
Northwest’s opponent in the first round of the 4-A playoffs was Davie County. The War Eagles of Morgan Wyatt shrugged at the Vikings’ profile and hammered out a 10-5 comeback win on May 5.
The 16 hits from the visiting side frazzled a senior pitcher and her defeated teammates.
“It is one of the better groups I’ve been around hitting-wise,” said Wyatt, who got two hits from Karley Queen, Bailey Snow, Sydney Dirks (two doubles), London Dirks (three RBIs), Summer Simpson, Leah Grimes and Chesney Shook. “The amount of work they put in with us and on their own … this group can really hit. We’ve had some amazing hitters come through – people like Sierra Ferguson, Makenzie Smith, K’lea Parks; that group when we went deep in the playoffs – and now this group is coming through. They are a special group. There’s a lot of potential right here to make a big impact.”
Although the season ended in the second round, Davie celebrated its first playoff win since a 12-0 waltz over South Meck in 2017.
Davie had four hits in the first inning, but only one run to show for it. The lead was wiped out by a three-run homer from sophomore Addy Tucker in the third.
“She wasn’t on top of the scouting report,” Wyatt said of NWG’s No. 5 batter. “Their third baseman was the big one. She’s committed to Radford.”
In the second, third and fourth innings, Davie’s offense barely stirred. In the fifth, Queen singled and S. Dirks doubled to put runners at second and third, but there were two outs and the deficit was still 3-1.
The rest of the inning was bananas. L. Dirks produced another signature moment, her two-run single tying the game at 3. Everyone found a groove as Simpson singled, Grimes tripled and Shook doubled. When the dust settled, Davie had five runs on six hits and a 6-3 lead.
“They’re a fun group to coach and to watch,” Wyatt said.
A two-out, two-run double in the sixth got Northwest back in contention at 7-5, but Davie continued to torment pitcher Emma Moberg in the seventh. Grimes singled before Kaylyn Nuckols doubled. Shook and Taylor Hilliard got singles, Queen hit a sac fly and Snow put down a run-scoring bunt as Davie restored the lead to 10-5.
There’s a reason the War Eagles rode confidently to Greensboro. In three losses to East Forsyth, they managed only three runs and a .138 batting average, but in the other 12 games their averages are outrageous (11.6 runs, .405 average).
Grimes resumed a rise that has seen her go 6 for 13 over four games, boosting her average from .225 to .295. Many times it seems like Wyatt could pluck her batting order out of a hat. Against Northwest, the 6-9 sticks – Grimes, Nuckols, Shook and Hilliard – combined for six hits, four RBIs, four runs and three extra-base hits.
“They’re not as much in the spotlight because you’ve got people like London, Sydney, Audrea (Fowler), Summer and Melanie (Gobble).”
After Nuckols kept Northwest off the board in the first two innings, Shook took over from there, her five-inning stint lifting her record to 8-1.
Mooresville 8, Davie 1
Campbell Schaen and the Blue Devils poured ice water on Davie’s offense in the second round on May 6. Schaen, a freshman lefthander, was big-time in the circle, pitching a no-hitter with zero walks.
“She’s got good movement on the ball, decent speed, and her changeup kept us offbalance,” Wyatt said after Schaen threw 51 strikes in 80 pitches and gave up one unearned run. “Nobody could make an adjustment the whole game. She kept missing barrels and we couldn’t square one up.”
Yes, Davie’s sweet turnaround year ended with a thud, but it would have taken a certifiably great team to beat the Blue Devils, who improved to 16-1 after going 12-0 in their conference. They’ve outscored opponents 233-20 – that’s an average score of 14-1 – with the only loss being 9-7 to Cox Mill. What’s more, Mooresville has outscored opponents 76-3 during its five-game winning streak.
“Mooresville is a very solid team,” Wyatt said. “They have a good program. We got a little shellshocked with the (road) environment. We ran into a train and didn’t make adjustments. And it carried over from the plate to the defensive side (four errors and four unearned runs). If we play a good defensive game, we lose 3-1 or 4-1.”
Mooresville struck quickly, getting three hits in a three-run first, including a homer by the cleanup batter.
Davie’s only base runner came in the second. L. Dirks reached on an error, stole second and scored on Grimes’ ground out.
“Nobody likes to end that way, but it happens sometimes,” Wyatt said.
A bright spot: Nuckols, Shook and Addison Hendrix limited a magnificent offense to seven hits.
Even though the War Eagles wilted in the final hour, it was hard to complain about the season. They took a giant leap forward, finishing 10-6 after going 9-13 in 2019 and 0-7 in the abbreviated 2020.
And on top of that, Davie might be on the verge of something special. Fifteen of 17 players were freshmen, sophomores and juniors. The only seniors were Queen and Hilliard.
“We had a good year and the expectations are even higher for next year,” the second-year coach said. “They definitely put in the work. It wasn’t easy, but they stepped up and did what we needed them to do. That led to the success they had on the field.”
After struggling at the plate in 2019-20, L. Dirks developed into a star as a junior.
• She had 28 RBIs, tying for the seventh-most in program history.
• The record for batting average is Ferguson’s .573 in 2017. L. Dirks entered Mooresville at .574; she settled for third place at .540. Wyatt’s .542 in 2009 is second.
• L. Dirks roped 10 doubles to tie for third behind Sadie Lagle (13 in 2012) and Jordan Schultz (12 in 2007). Wyatt had 10 in 2007.
• London and sister Sydney both swatted six homers to tie for third behind Ferguson’s 10 in 2017 and Wyatt’s nine in 2009. Fowler slammed five to tie for sixth.
It’s remarkable that L. Dirks cracked the top seven in RBIs, doubles and homers during a shortened season. You can say the same thing about S. Dirks and Fowler in the HR category.
“What sucks is the girls got cut short last year and this year was a short one, too,” Wyatt said. “I’m ready to see what we can do in a full-length season.”