Girls get gritty win at West

Published 1:50 pm Thursday, April 28, 2022

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By Brian Pitts

Enterprise Record

Davie’s varsity softball team was rocked 10-0 at mighty East Forsyth, but the War Eagles were all smiles by week’s end.

Getting a gutsy pitching effort from fearless freshman Raelyn Lankford, big hits from London Dirks and Carleigh Croom and a defensive gem from Sydney Dirks, they atoned by beating West Forsyth in Clemmons to lock up second place in the Central Piedmont Conference.

“We gutted it out,” assistant coach Fred Smith said.

The War Eagles played three games in four days. At home on April 19, they battered lowly Mt. Tabor 17-0 in two and a half innings. S. Dirks, Leah Grimes and McKenzie Mixon highlighted the rout with home runs.

Two days later, Davie was burned 10-0 at East Forsyth. It was ugly as Davie was outhit 12-1. Davie made all five errors in the game and struck out 15 times against all-star Kierston Deal. First-place East (13-1 overall, 11-0 CPC) notched its eighth shutout. Davie dropped to 9-2 in the league, with both losses to East.

S. Dirks had the only hit off Deal, going 1 for 2 with a walk. To put Deal’s talent into perspective, Davie is 5 for 38 (.131) in the two East games, at which point it was hitting .471 (172-365) against everybody else.

“They were emotional after the game,” Smith said. “I told them it’s supposed to hurt.”

Davie 7, WF 4

Davie regrouped in a hurry, winning its second showdown with the Titans on April 22.

In the second inning, two West errors gave the War Eagles a 1-0 lead. In the fifth, Davie took advantage of a two-out West error. The miscue gave Summer Simpson a chance to swing with Melanie Gobble aboard, and she cranked a triple that made it 2-0.

The Titans came back in the fifth. After only managing one hit against Lankford in the first four innings, they used three singles and a walk to force a 2-2 tie.

But Davie fired up its dangerous offense in the sixth. West’s pitcher, junior Cate Etcheson, fell behind the first batter, L. Dirks, 2-0. L. Dirks was looking for one pitch in one spot and she smashed a tiebreaking home run.

“London worked the count to her advantage to get something she could unload on – and she crushed it,” coach Debbie Evans said.

That ignited a huge rally. Audrea Fowler singled and Mixon reached on error, but it was still 3-2 with two outs when a freshman pinch-hitter made her presence felt. Croom jumped on the first pitch and delivered a two-run single to right. Later in the inning, Croom took several steps off third, induced a throw from the catcher and stole home as Davie charged to a 7-2 lead.

“I had been waiting on a situation for Carleigh,” Smith said. “She reminds me a lot of Anna Devereaux. She baited them halfway down the line. They threw behind her and off she went. They were rattled at that point.”

“It was clutch,” Evans said. “Carleigh was able to push one through the back side to pick up two big runs for us.”

In many ways, the win was a tribute to Lankford. The freshman who had no expectations to pitch in 2022 announced her varsity arrival when she went the distance in the circle in a 15-5 blowout of Reagan on April 8.

She did it again before a hostile environment in Clemmons. In the fifth, West had the bases loaded with one out with the score 2-2. Lankford reached deep, striking out cleanup batter Emily Mutter on three pitches and snagging a comebacker off the bat of Hannah Paterson to keep the score tied.

“She held it together,” Smith said. “I called time because Raelyn was frustrated. It was 2-2 and the momentum was in their favor. I told her: ‘Keep doing what you’re doing.’ She settled down and got us out of it.”

West threatened in the seventh as well. The leadoff batter, Sydney Horton, homered on the first pitch. Then Abby Hunter singled, Madison Barringer doubled and Mutter walked. Runners were at first and second with no outs, and the tying run was at the plate.

What did Lankford do? She struck out Paterson looking and coaxed two popouts. That’s what.

“She was a beast,” Smith said. “No. 1, she’s just a competitor. The fire she brought in the circle was something we haven’t seen in a while. She is fiery. People are like: ‘Where did that come from?’”

Things might have gotten really hairy in the seventh if it weren’t for S. Dirks’ running catch. After Lankford got Paterson on strikes with the bases full, Timia Sales hit a popup in shallow center. S. Dirks chased it down for the second out.

“Sydney made a huge play,” Smith said. “It was hit over second base and Sydney made an over-the-shoulder catch. That was going to score one if not two.”

Notes: The Titans are 15-5 overall. … East (11-0), Davie (10-2) and West (9-4) are 1-2-3 in the standings. … Davie has three straight wins over West, including 7-5 on March 22. … L. Dirks paced Davie’s nine-hit attack with a single and the homer. … On a 119-pitch night, Lankford improved to 3-1 with her second complete game in four starts. Her ERA is a solid 2.45. … Simpson was outstanding at shortstop (six assists), and Smith considers first baseman Grimes an invaluable cog. “She’s our defensive MVP,” he said. “When throws are in the dirt or high, she makes it look easy. She snagged a one-hop laser, turned around and tagged the bag to get a big out.” … Five War Eagles are scorching at the plate: S. Dirks (.500 average), Fowler (.500), Simpson (.500), L. Dirks (.470) and Gobble (.425). … Davie has quite a home-run race brewing. L. Dirks, S. Dirks, Grimes, Mixon and Simpson all have four homers on the season.