A second-inning outburst allowed visiting North Forsyth to jump on West Forsyth early Monday, and the Lady Raiders held onto their lead the rest of the way to a 10-6 win over the Wolverines in the softball season opener for both.
“We went down 3-0 early and it kind of put us on our heels, so we relied on our seniors, and they came right back. Courtney Wagoner, Chelsea Fernandez ... Lauren Williams — they all came up huge that inning, bringing in seven runs,” North coach Becky Cahill said of her team’s second-inning output.
West appeared to be in for a solid night offensively with three runs in the first. Sloan Bunting led off the inning with a single, and Nikki Erdely and Kelsie Fowler (two hits) later recorded RBI base hits. Emily Zabatakis scored Fowler on a sacrifice to make it 3-0.
Cahill left starting pitcher Mallory Swanson to battle following the rough start, and the junior ended up going the distance for North.
“Mallory is a smart player, and she knew she wasn’t throwing the best game she’s ever thrown, but she knew what she had to win. You know, she hit her spots ... and she definitely settled down after the first inning,” the coach said.
West coach Byron Orr was also complimentary of the performance by the opposing pitcher.
“We ... played pretty good there right off the bat. Had some good hits and made some good base-running moves there, and then ... once [Swanson] got settled into a groove there, she did pretty good, because she started hitting the corners better in the middle innings there. ... I think she was probably a little bit nervous and we took advantage of that for [an inning], but then we couldn’t muster nothing after that,” Orr said.
“For us, that was a good test, because we won’t play a lot of teams that’s better overall than they are.”
North batted around in the second inning, scoring seven to take a lead they never relinquished. Wagoner topped off the frame with a two-run homer to make it 7-3 in favor of North, accounting for half of her two hits and four RBI in the game. Lauren Velez and Quinn Johnson, both with two hits for the game, recorded RBI base hits in the frame, while Natalie Bennett drove in a run by reaching base on an error and later scored herself on a wild pitch. All seven runs came with two outs.
“We’ve been working really hard on bunting, swinging, so we swing it pretty well. We just had to swing it to make up for some sloppy play in other areas,” Cahill said.
North expanded the lead to 9-3 in the fourth off a two-RBI single from Wagoner that turned into three bases with an error. Williams, with two hits for the game, recorded an RBI double in the sixth to make it 10-6 following a three-run inning for West in the bottom of the fifth.
Hillary Keller (two hits) had a two-RBI triple in the West fifth, with Chelsea Wood bringing in a run as well.
Freshman Hannah Weldy closed out the game for West on the mound, after starter Racheal Kirby was pulled two innings in.
Orr noted that none of North’s runs in the second were earned, but felt like he had to go to his bullpen just to change the momentum after the big frame.
North was set to host Woodstock at 5:55 p.m. Wednesday, with a reunion of the Lady Raiders’ 1998 state champion team beforehand.
West was scheduled to dive right into Region 7-AAA play this week, playing host to Lumpkin County on Tuesday and Creekview on Thursday.