Rotten Luck: Potts strikes out 15 in loss

Published 1:41 pm Tuesday, March 26, 2024

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By Brian Pitts

Enterprise Record

Why on earth are the softball gods being so cruel to Davie’s varsity?

Against visiting West Forsyth, Riley Potts struck out 11 while pitching a three-hitter. But Davie walked away a 2-0 loser.

At West Rowan, Potts struck out 15, Davie outhit the Falcons and W. Rowan committed the only error of the night. But the game ended in 3-2 agony for the War Eagles. Yes, Potts struck out 15 in defeat, and that just doesn’t happen.

Potts’ 6-5 record is one of the most misleading stats in Davie annals. The junior is pitching historically well. But Davie’s offensive shortcomings have been too much to overcome.

The hard-luck War Eagles are 0-4 in games decided by one or two runs. In their five losses, they’re hitting .112 (13 for 116).

West 2, Davie 0

Potts and West Forsyth freshman phenom Morgan Maxwell dueled at Davie on March 19. Potts retired seven of the first eight batters and 11 of the last 12. Both West runs were unearned as her ERA dropped to 0.87, which would be the third-best ever at Davie.

On the visitors side, Maxwell shoved a one-hitter with zero walks and nine strikeouts. She was perfect for 6.1 innings. Raelyn Lankford was Davie’s first base runner when she reached on a one-out error in the seventh inning. The next batter, Jaydn Davis, broke up the no-hitter with a single. Davie had runners at the corners with W. Forsyth leading 2-0, but a flyout and a grounder to first ended the Davie threat.

“We are in every game,” coach Nathan Handy said. “We just cannot find a way to win a tight game right now.”

Davie only made two errors, but both were costly. In the West third, a two-out triple was followed by an error. The second run came home on a Davie miscue in the fourth.

But Handy was more upset by the War Eagles’ struggles at the plate. They were held to one or no runs for the fourth time and their batting average tumbled to .195.

“We felt like we knew exactly what (Maxwell) was going to do, but our batters did not go into that battle thinking I’m better than you and they were timid,” he said. “She’s a good pitcher – I’m not taking anything away from her – but we didn’t follow the game plan.”

Notes: The Titans, who were coming off a 4-1 loss to Reagan, improved to 7-2 overall and 4-1 in the CPC. … Davie and West have split the last 10 meetings. … After dropping three of four games, Davie eased past lowly Parkland in a home doubleheader on March 20. The scores were 17-0 and 16-0, both games lasting two and a half innings. While Davie moved to 3-2 in the CPC, the Mustangs fell to 0-8. … The Parkland games lifted Davie’s batting average 56 points to .251.

WR 3, Davie 2

With one out in the sixth in a nonconference game at West Rowan on March 21, Potts had a no-hitter and had struck out 14 of 18 batters. She was five outs from a masterpiece.

It wasn’t meant to be. The Falcons scored three times in the last two innings to steal one from the War Eagles (6-5 overall).

“This was a tough one to swallow,” Handy said. “We beat them in every category except for two – home runs and the final score.”

Davie took command in the top of the first. Raney Phelps and Davis hit back-to-back doubles to put Davie on the board. In the fifth, the visitors tacked one on. Landry Parsons pushed a runner to second with a bunt and Lankford followed with a run-scoring single to make it 2-0.

Phelps went 2 for 4 to lead the way. Lankford, Davis and Parsons had one hit each as Davie finished with the most hits (five) it’s had in any of its losses.

“We’ve got to give Riley some support on offense, and we did a much better job getting on base,” Handy said. “We had five hits, which is one of our better games offensively. But we still left so many runners stranded.”

Indeed, they did. The War Eagles stranded Parsons and Phelps in the third. They left Hanna Steinour at second in the sixth. They left Parsons standing on first in the seventh.

“(But) we followed the game plan,” Handy said. “They were taking the pitches they were supposed to take, and they were swinging at the pitches that we were looking for.”

Potts struck out the first batter of the sixth, but the Falcons were back to the top of their order, and that meant superhero Emma Clarke was up. The most thrilling hitter in Rowan County history, a Tennessee signee, ambushed the first pitch, hitting an opposite-field homer to right. Clarke struck out in the first and walked in the third before slicing Davie’s lead to 2-1 with one wicked swing.

Clarke is fresh off West’s repeat state title in basketball, and this was her fourth homer in four games. It was her 36th career dinger.

“Truthfully, we really did not want to pitch to Emma Clarke at all, but with the score being 2-0, you’re still winning even if she hits a home run,” Handy said. “Riley and I had a conversation about we’re going to pitch to her but we’re gonna pitch around her. The pitch was almost in the other batter’s box and she still hit it out. We did a good job of keeping her offbalance in her first two at-bats. If Emma puts just a piece of the bat on the ball, it’s going out or it’s going to be hit hard.”

Another West stalwart jumped on the first pitch in the bottom of the seventh. Potts struck out cleanup batter EA Nance in the first and fourth, but Nance tied it with her third long ball of the season.

“We haven’t (allowed any homers) until this game, which is what gave me the confidence to continue to pitch to some of West Rowan’s bigger hitters,” Handy said. “We know (Nance) is a big hitter, but you can’t put a runner on in the bottom of the seventh and have the potential go-ahead run at the plate. You’ve got to pitch to them and take your chances.”

Potts limited her walks to three, but one of them came with one out in the seventh. Sophomore Lucy Shelton appeared as a pinch hitter and reached base with a bunt. On the next pitch, freshman Kayla Burnes singled to give West (4-3) a walk-off win.

Potts’ electric right arm has struck out 112 in 56.1 innings and produced a 1.11 ERA.

“The amount of growth that she has shown from sophomore to junior season is immense,” Handy said. “Obviously, Riley’s not gonna hit every spot. There are going to be some mis-pitches.”

Notes: Ironically, Emma Clarke’s mother Elizabeth (Greene) was a basketball/softball standout for Davie. She graduated in 1995. … Handy said Davis and Lankford have been jinxed at the plate. “Jaydn has gotten unlucky, and the same thing for Raelyn,” he said. “Raelyn’s hitting the ball hard, but she just can’t find a gap. She hit two balls (against W. Rowan) that were about 10 feet from the fence. I thought one of them was going to carry out, but it just died. At some point, these are going to fall.”