West edges Davie in softball pitching duel

Published 12:57 pm Tuesday, April 25, 2023

By Brian Pitts

Davie Enterprise Record

Davie’s varsity softball team bashed three home runs as it pounded Central Davidson in a nonconference game.

Two days later, though, its bats were subdued by West Forsyth’s Cate Etchason, who edged Riley Potts in a pitchers’ duel in front of a large crowd at Davie.

The 2-1 loss to the Titans left the War Eagles a distant third in the Central Piedmont Conference. At the end of last week, East Forsyth was 12-0, West 12-1 and Davie 7-4. Reagan is right behind Davie at 7-5.

But there’s another way to look at the War Eagles. Look at how close they are to contending for first. They suffered a pair of one-run losses to East – the scores were 6-5 and 5-4 – before the narrow setback to West.

“We hit the ball hard,” coach Nathan Handy said. “It was the same old story – we just didn’t find the gaps. We couldn’t get a timely hit.”

Davie 13, CD 6

In the first two innings against visiting Central Davidson on April 19, the War Eagles played home-run derby.

The fourth batter in the bottom of the first, Sydney Dirks, cranked a homer that extended her career record to 21. Two batters later, Leah Grimes went deep. It was the first homer of the season for the Mars Hill signee.

“She’s just been under the ball just a little too much and has had some popouts,” Handy said. “Hopefully that’s going to spark her and get her going, because in the conference tournament and playoffs, we definitely need her bat.”

Later in the first, leadoff batter Raelyn Lankford came up for the second time. She slapped an opposite-field, two-run triple to right as Davie got off to a roaring, 7-0 start.

“We had a conversation about Raelyn focussing on her on-base percentage,” Handy said. “She’s a leader on this team. She had a great night not only offensively, but she had six or seven plays at third base. There were a lot of hard-hit balls at her, and she was on fire. She’s just as solid as she can be (at third). She brings energy and fire.”

With Summer Simpson aboard in the second, Hanna Steinour delivered Davie’s third tater in a span of 14 batters. It was the second homer of the season for a sophomore who has exceeded expectations.

“Our offense was clicking,” Handy said. “We’ve been hard on them at times, but it’s only because we know what they can do. Hanna has been on fire. I could not be more proud of the 180 that she’s done since the beginning of last season as a jayvee player to now.”

Lankford (2-3, walk), Jaydn Davis (2-3), Dirks (2-4) and Grimes (2-4) banged out two hits each as Davie dropped Central to 7-10.

After a slow start, Potts retired the side in order in the fifth, sixth and seventh, the sophomore finishing with a one-hitter over four innings. Addie Hendrix worked three innings in the circle.

Handy said one of the best developments of late has been Davie’s impressive strides in the outfield.

“Jaydn did her job in left,” he said. “Carleigh Croom is always solid in center. Whether it’s Delaney Parsons in right or Carly Crouch, our outfield has improved so much in a short period of time. It was a problem early in the season.”

WF 2, Davie 1

After Simpson scored on a wild pitch in the bottom of the sixth to get Davie within one against visiting West Forsyth on April 21, Dirks tried to create a magical moment. She hammered a pitch down the line in left. It kept hooking. Instead of a game-tying homer, it wound up being a long strike. She would pop out.

That summed up Davie’s luck against the CPC’s frontrunners so far this year.

“Syd cranks one over the left-field wall,” Handy said. “Unfortunately, it was about three feet foul. It was fair for so long. It just kept going left. Sometimes luck is a factor, and we were on the wrong side of the foul pole tonight.”

The Titans jumped on Davie in the third. After the first two batters went down on strikes, leadoff batter Sydney Horton blasted a homer. Then Abby Hunter doubled and scored on Madisen Barringer’s hit as West went ahead 2-0.

West would only have two more baserunners the rest of the game.

After stranding one runner in each of the first four innings, Davie (12-6-1 overall) broke through in the sixth. Simpson rose to the occasion with a one-out triple past a diving right fielder. With two outs, she came racing home on Etchason’s only wild pitch of the night. That led to Dirks’ long drive that kept hooking.

Davie tried to rally in the seventh. With one out, Potts helped herself with a single. But Etchason retired the next two batters to secure West’s 17th win in 19 tries.

Etchason has been a pain in Davie’s neck, walking one in 14 innings over two meetings. The senior pitched a three-hitter despite only having one strikeout. Credit a terrific West defense that snared five liners on the night. Grimes lined out in the second. Davis and Simpson had hard outs in the third. Croom and Lankford hit the ball sharply for outs in the fifth.

“Their center fielder (Hunter) is very quick,” Handy said. “She caught two balls that I thought were going to fall.”

The outcome overshadowed an outstanding effort by Potts, who walked one, struck out 11 and spun a five-hitter. She struck out multiple batters in five different innings.

“Riley pitched a great game,” Handy said. “She stepped up big. She kept us in the game because our offense was struggling. I think she outdueled the other pitcher.”

And then: “We played a really good game defensively. We’re proud of them for the way they fought against a very good opponent. We didn’t beat ourselves; West Forsyth just beat us.”

Notes: West’s 27th-year coach, Kevin Baity, has a career record of 506-185, and it looks like the Titans are going to keep winning for a while. “This group I have, they’re good and they’re young,” Baity told the Clemmons Courier. “We’ve got two seniors on the team. The majority of them are freshmen and sophomores.” … Davie’s three hits came from Simpson (1-3), Grimes (1-3) and Potts (1-3). … Youth Night was a tremendous success. “They loved getting autographs from our girls,” Handy said. “Even though we didn’t get the win, every single one of those girls had a blast.” … In the first of three games last week, the War Eagles rolled to a 13-0 runaway win at Mt. Tabor on April 18. It was a CPC game that mirrored the first meeting (15-0).