Varsity softball on emotional roller coaster

Published 1:36 pm Tuesday, March 14, 2023

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By Brian Pitts

Enterprise Record

It was an emotional roller coaster for the Davie varsity softball team last week.

Against visiting Forbush, the War Eagles pulled off one of the greatest comebacks you’ll ever see, erasing a 7-2 deficit in the bottom of the seventh inning and winning 8-7.

They had another dramatic rally at East Forsyth, turning a 4-1 deficit into a 5-4 lead in the top of the seventh. But East’s walk-off hit in the bottom half negated the joy of that comeback as Davie lost 6-5 in Central Piedmont Conference play.

Davie 8, Forbush 7

When the Falcons put up four runs on three hits, a walk and an error in the top of the sixth to extend their lead to 7-2, Davie’s hopes seemed sunk.

But the War Eagles pulled off the unlikely in the bottom of the seventh on March 6. The rally was sparked by the No. 7 batter as Hanna Steinour singled on the first pitch. Riley Potts singled, and with one out, Raelyn Lankford walked. Then Davie was aided by Forbush miscues. Two runs scored when Carleigh Croom reached on an error. Hits by Summer Simpson and Sydney Dirks pulled Davie within 7-6, but the next batter got out and Forbush was one out from finally nailing it down.

It couldn’t close the deal. Jaydn Davis reached on an error. Steinour’s ball was also errored and Dirks came flying home to clinch an exhilarating win.

“It’s like the wheels fell off for Forbush,” coach Nathan Handy said. “Once we got the snowball effect started, it just didn’t stop. I don’t think I’ll ever be a part of a crazier bottom of the seventh.

“Hanna came up big. We told her she has to put the ball in play, put the pressure on the defense and crazy things can happen.”

Davie erased Forbush’s 2-0 lead in the fourth. Dirks blasted a homer, Leah Grimes doubled, and Grimes advanced to third on Davis’ bunt and to home on Steinour’s flyout.

Lankford (2-2, two walks), Simpson (2-4) and Dirks (2-4, two RBIs) fueled the offense, and Potts was strong in the circle, walking one and striking out 11. But Davie was fortunate to overcome some defensive shortcomings, with three errors resulting in five unearned runs for Forbush.

“We let three pop flies hit the ground – I mean three catchable balls,” Handy said. “As dirty as the game was, we were proud of them for continuing to fight. No one quit, no one gave up. It took six and a half innings for us to come alive, but it finally happened.”

EF 6, Davie 5

The War Eagles staged another magical rally in a CPC battle at East Forsyth on March 10, but they left Kernersville with a gut-wrenching loss.

Now they need a hard defensive reset after committing five errors and giving up four unearned runs.

“You can’t make five errors and expect to win the game,” Handy said. “Without those errors, we win the game. Like I’ve said before, we’re young.”

Davie made four errors in the bottom of the sixth, resulting in three East runs and a 4-1 deficit.

Davie’s offense, though, didn’t wobble. With the visitors needing at least three runs in their final at-bat, Dirks doubled down the left-field line and Grimes delivered a single. After the first out, Audrea Fowler got on base and Potts singled. Then came another clutch hit from Steinour, a two-run double that tied it at 5.

“I called time and pulled Hanna over there to me,” Handy said. “I said: ‘Look, just clear your mind.’ I could see that she was nervous. I said: ‘Open your stance, it’s coming inside and just be you.’ She hit a shot down the third-base line. That’s two games that Hanna has come through big for us. That shows her growth from freshman to sophomore. She’s really seizing her opportunities.”

When Lankford got a single up the middle, Davie had a 5-4 lead.

“I basically told Raelyn the same thing,” Handy said. “Open your stance a little and be ready for an inside pitch. It fell in no-man’s land.”

Davie was three outs from a 2-0 start in the CPC, but East refused to roll over. The first two batters walked on fullcount pitches. Both runners advanced into scoring position on a fielder’s choice, and then came a two-run hit on an 0-2 pitch.

The ninth straight loss in the series felt like a gut punch. Davie had self-inflicted wounds to blame.

“Riley did her job the entire game and our defense didn’t quite support her enough,” Handy said. “That put a lot of pressure on her to come through in the bottom of the seventh.”

It was business as usual for Dirks, who went 3 for 3 with a double. Her offensive work through six games leaps off the page: .611 average (11-18).

“She’s got a really good bat path,” he said of the Western Carolina signee. “It doesn’t matter where you try to pitch her, she’s going to put the ball in play. She’s just been on fire. She laid down a perfect bunt (for a hit). She’s just an all-around offensive player. I asked her: ‘How many times have you bunted in your career?’ She said that was the first.”

Notes: Riding pitcher Kierston Deal (Oklahoma), East went 19-2 and reached the final four in 2021 and went 27-3 and finished as state runner-up last year. It went 22-0 in the CPC the past two years. … The new pitcher for East (3-1, 2-0) is senior Alex Brown, who pitched all seven against Davie and walked none. … Davie is 4-2, 1-1. … Croom was robbed twice by East. “Croom hit two hard shots, one up the middle and the pitcher barely got it,” Handy said. “She hit another shot and the second baseman didn’t have to move. She just stuck her glove up.” … Five War Eagles are hitting .400 or better, including Simpson (.500, 10-20), Lankford (.500, 9-18), Davis (.437, 7-16) and Grimes (.400, 6-15). … Between the Forbush/E. Forsyth games, Davie breezed past lowly Reynolds at home, 17-0. Lankford cranked her second homer and Croom (2-2), Simpson (3-3) and Davis (3-3) had multiple hits in a game that lasted two and a half innings. … It was Davie’s 54th straight win over Reynolds.