There’s a new home run queen: Dirks breaks record

Published 12:49 pm Tuesday, April 18, 2023

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By Brian Pitts

Enterprise Record

Sydney Dirks’ status as a Davie softball legend was already secure – she is among the leaders in a number of categories in the Davie record book, including the No. 2 season average (.549) last year as a junior – but she took her status to new heights by breaking the career home run mark in a home showdown against first-place East Forsyth.

Unfortunately, while Dirks enjoyed a special moment, the April 11 game did not end the way the War Eagles had hoped. They were edged 5-4 as another “almost” attached itself to a team that leads the Central Piedmont Conference in that hard-luck department.

The War Eagles are 2-4 in games decided by one or two runs, including a 6-5 loss to East on March 10. It was the second straight game that ended with a one-run loss (4-3 in 11 innings to Carson on March 30). Things are supposed to even out at some point, right?

“Going into the postseason, I truly feel we’re going to be a sleeper team,” coach Nathan Handy said. “We have so much talent and our record (9-5-1 overall, 5-3 CPC to this point) doesn’t match that talent. We’ve just got to figure out how to pull it out.”

Things started well enough. In the bottom of the first, Hanna Steinour doubled in Raelyn Lankford as Davie jumped to a 2-0 lead.

Steinour, who seems like a rising star as a sophomore, went 2 for 3 with two doubles.

“She had two hard-hit balls,” Handy said. “She has really hurt East (three doubles in two games). This year she’s really stepped up and been a huge part of our lineup. Without her, we wouldn’t have won a few games that we did and we wouldn’t have been in games that we ended up losing. She’s exceeding our expectations.”

In the top of the third, East blended three hits and a walk into three runs. Then two hits and an error resulted in two more East runs in the sixth, when the Davie deficit reached 5-2.

After Davie only managed two hits from the second through the fifth, its biggest offensive stars created drama in the sixth. Summer Simpson roped a triple off the fence in right-center. On the next pitch, Dirks lived out a dream by cranking a two-run homer that pulled Davie within 5-4 and broke a tie with Sierra Ferguson for most career homers.

“She has a very consistent swing,” Handy said of the future Western Carolina player. “Nothing changes about her approach from pitch to pitch. She has a natural talent to be able to hit the ball hard. I’m super excited for her to be able to break that record, especially at home. It was probably the longest home run that I’ve ever seen her hit, and probably the longest home run that’s been hit this season in any game we’ve played. It was probably 250-260 (feet). I mean it was crushed. Coming around third base, I don’t think she’s hit my hand that hard before.”

Ferguson, a second-year assistant coach at Davie, slammed 19 homers from 2015-18. Dirks has 20 and counting, the new standard in the fastpitch program’s 27-year history.

“When I was playing and tied the career home run record, it was at Parkland, Morgan (Wyatt) was my assistant coach and she was the one that previously held it,” Ferguson said. “When Sydney tied my record (on March 24), it was also at Parkland, I am her assistant coach and I was the one who previously held it. History repeated itself. I thought that was pretty cool.”

It’s an amazing accomplishment considering that two seasons were cut short by the pandemic. Dirks’ 20th bomb came in her 62nd Davie game.

“I have had this goal ever since I entered high school,” Dirks said. “And then COVID hit and we had a shortened season, so I didn’t know if I could do it. But it was honestly one of the proudest moments being able to achieve the goal I’ve had for four years now.”

East and its pitcher Alex Brown dodged a bullet in the seventh and held on to beat Davie for the 10th consecutive time. Delaney Parsons started the bottom of the seventh with a four-pitch walk, the only batter Brown has walked in 14 innings against Davie this season. With one out, Jaydn Davis reached on an error. That meant the big bats – Simpson and Dirks – were coming up with two on.

Everyone in the stands could envision a storybook finish … but it wasn’t meant to be. Simpson and Dirks grounded out and Davie fell further behind East and West Forsyth in the CPC standings.

“Ninety-nine times out of a hundred, one of those two are going to put something through the infield,” Handy said. “We’re all human.”

Notes: East, which beat West 6-5 in eight innings, improved to 10-2 overall. … Steinour and Simpson (2-4) had two hits each. Lankford (1-4), Dirks (1-4) and Riley Potts (1-3) had one each. … Only three of the five runs off Potts, who went the distance in the circle for Davie, were earned. … Ferguson might have lost her career homer record, but she still has plenty of others, including longest hitting streak (37 games), season average (.573), season hits (47), season RBIs (47), career RBIs (112) and season homers (10). “(The hitting streak) is my favorite record,” Ferguson said. “I hope I keep that one for a while. But I’ll be happy for anyone who breaks them. If records weren’t meant to be broken, we wouldn’t keep up with them.” … Davie raced past inferior Reynolds 17-0 in two and a half innings on April 12. Davis and Dirks rapped three hits apiece and Addie Hendrix pitched three hitless innings as the Demons sank to 0-14. … East (10-0) and West (10-1) are 1-2 in the CPC standings. Davie (10-5-1 overall) is third at 6-3, followed by Reagan at 7-4.