Softball team makes statement with semi-final win

Published 1:43 pm Tuesday, May 9, 2023

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By Brian Pitts

Enterprise Record

Going into the Central Piedmont Conference Tournament, Davie’s softball team was 0-4 against the top two seeds (East Forsyth/West Forsyth), was 1-4 in one-run games and was winless in two extra-inning games. What’s more, the War Eagles had lost three straight to West and 10 straight to East.

Then it was as if the softball gods decided Davie was due for a market correction.

The War Eagles busted through the title door in a heart-warming way. They made a statement in a 5-4 semifinal win over West, and they survived a championship game for the ages by beating East in eight innings.

West hosted all three tournament games on May 3-4. After the semifinal, coach Nathan Handy breathed a sigh of relief.

“How many times did I tell you the experience of these tight games is going to pay off?” Handy said. “We’re battle-tested and ready for the playoffs. It has come together.”

In the top of the first inning, Sydney Dirks illustrated again why she’s one of the most dangerous hitters in the area. With Jaydn Davis on first, she launched her ninth home run of the season – one from the single-season record.

“As soon as it left her bat, you knew it was gone,” Handy said. “Sydney set the tone for us. Everybody in our conference knows she is dangerous. They had shut her down (in the regular season), but tonight she turned it on.”

But the second-seeded Titans don’t have 20 wins by accident. They scored three unanswered runs to grab a 3-2 lead, the last two coming when No. 7 batter Liliana Murphy went deep.

But after Murphy’s two-run shot, Davie pitcher Riley Potts redeemed herself. How strong was Potts in the fifth, sixth and seventh? West had two baserunners the rest of the game, and the sophomore outdueled a senior in the circle. Potts pitched a five-hitter with two walks and 10 strikeouts.

“Riley can’t get a call at West, but she did a good job of adjusting,” Handy said. “She had some adversity with the defense not helping her out (earlier in the season), and she started to fall off a little bit. But she’s picked it back up the last few games, and now she’s on fire. So she’s stepping up big at the right time.”

West’s Cate Etchason contained Davie’s bats both times in the regular season, and she permitted just one hit in the second, third and fourth. But Davie came up with a decisive surge in the fifth. Potts helped herself with a single. Courtesy-runner Chloe Smith advanced on a passed ball and scored on a single up the middle by Raelyn Lankford. Then Davis jerked a double down the third-base line to give third-seeded Davie the 4-3 lead.

Potts took care of the rest. The first batter in the bottom of the seventh flew out to left fielder Davis. Potts struck out the next batter looking. She walked the No. 9 batter on a 3-2 pitch, but she coaxed a mile-high popup from the next girl. Dirks squeezed the final out and celebrations erupted.

“I couldn’t be more proud of them,” Handy said. “They’ve been fighting hard all year and we’ve been on the wrong end of that stick so many times. To pull it out against West, our rival, it feels good. We haven’t celebrated like that in the last two years. Even though we celebrated hard when we beat them last year, this being a conference tournament game just makes it sweeter.”

Notes: Davie (16-6-1) ended a seven-game winning streak for West (20-3). … Davis and Dirks both went 2 for 3. Davie got one hit from Lankford (1-4), Summer Simpson (1-4), Hanna Steinour (1-3) and Potts (1-3). … Dirks moved within one homer of Sierra Ferguson’s record of 10 in 2017. Morgan Wyatt had nine in 2009. Dirks extended her career record to 23. … In single-season strikeouts, Potts raised her total to 140 and passed Shannon Handy (133 in 2001) for third place all-time. Layne Grout had 151 in 2002 and Olivia Boger had 148 in 2017. … Two days before the tournament, Davie had a cakewalk in the final regular-season game at Glenn. Davie rolled 13-1 in five innings as Glenn finished 5-15. … The CPC standings: East/West 13-1, Davie 10-4, Reagan 8-6, Glenn 5-8, Mt. Tabor 4-10, Parkland 2-11, Reynolds 0-14.