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Softball: East Forsyth rolls to 16-0 in region play, tops West Hall
East Forsyth junior Hayden Payne takes her lead off third base Friday during the Broncos' 9-1 win against West Hall. - photo by David Roberts

Shelby Conaway and Ava Cowart etched their names into East Forsyth softball history Friday.

With runners on first and second and nobody out, Conaway snared a line drive off the bat of Baylee Hutson, tapped first base and threw to Cowart at second base to complete the first triple play in school history.

"Well, I saw the girl was taking a big lead, so I was staying as close to the bag as possible and just hoped I caught it," Conaway said. "Then I realized the girl was rounding third, so I threw it to second."

Ava Cowart caught Conaway's throw and stepped on the bag to end the game and give East a 9-1 win over West Hall. 

It's been a season of firsts for the Broncos — Conaway also hit the first grand slam in school history Aug. 7 against Northside. 

"A lot of us came in here not knowing what we were going to be," Conaway said. "Then once we got here, I think we all realized that we're going to be pretty good. I don't think we all expected to make it this far, but the fact that we have is kind of crazy."

The Broncos are 16-0 in Region 7-3A, having won 14 of their past 15 games overall.

East led nearly the entire game Friday, as Emma Smallwood's RBI double scored Cali Marshall and provided a 1-0 lead in the first inning.

Smallwood finished 1-for-3 with two RBIs and a run scored, while Avrie Nowalk also went 1-for-3 with two RBIs and a run scored. Cowart and Emily Hutcheson each collected two hits, with Cowart scoring twice and Hutcheson driving home Carina Rossi in the fourth inning.

Marshall, Maia Gooden and Hayden Payne each had a hit for East, while Kennah Wall drew a walk and scored a run in her lone plate appearance.

One of the reasons for East's success this season is the team's flexibility.

Conaway is a catcher by trade, as is Emma Siver. The way head coach Dan Weber figures, both players need to be in the lineup because of how well they swing the bat. 

That's led to Conaway seeing the bulk of starts at first base.

"We have Siver and Conaway, and they're both starting catchers anywhere else, so we had to find a way because of Conaway's bat and because of Siver's bat," Weber said. "Siver's finger got hurt, so Conaway caught the last two games and we thought this would be a good opportunity to see Siver back there. Conaway's done a great job. She's just a good person and good to be around."

Meanwhile, Abi Shaheen was excellent in the circle for East, scattering four hits across five innings and limiting the Spartans to just one unearned run. Shaheen also struck out three batters and walked only one.

"The biggest thing I've seen with her and her growth that I love is that she's a very emotional young lady, and she's learning how to keep her emotions in check, which is making her a better player," Weber said of Shaheen. "That's what I liked about her today. She was able to keep her emotions in check — good pitches, bad pitches. She kept her emotions in check. That's where we've really worked with her, and I think she's going to really help us out a lot."

East [18-4, 16-0 Region 3-7A] can lock up a region championship next week, but the Broncos will have to fight off a pair of contenders.

"We're 16-0 and we've got Cherokee Bluff and White County," Weber said. "We've got White County on Monday and Cherokee on Tuesday. Those will be two big ones; they're No. 2 and No. 3 in the region ... we've got to play our best."

East beat Cherokee Bluff 8-1 and 5-2 earlier this season and owns 8-0 and 2-1 wins over White County.