For now, the Forsyth Central softball team is mixing it up. The Bulldogs have four pitchers that they can go to in a region game, and head coach Paul Cromie plans to keep using all of them at various points, despite the clear dominance of one in particular.
"When you have someone like a Bailey McCachren, a lot of folks say, 'Just ride that stallion all the way through,'" Cromie said. "But the flip-side of it is we've got to think about the long term as well."
That includes the postseason, in Cromie's mind, and it would be certainly benefit the Bulldogs' to have McCachren fresh for that time of year. In a region race that looks exceptionally scrambled, even four games in, this is clear: No pitcher has been dominant as the Central junior lefthander. McCachren has thrown 18 innings in region play for the Bulldogs, and 17 have been scoreless. That includes the six shutout frames she threw on Thursday against North Forsyth, leading Central to a 7-2 win and keeping the Bulldogs (6-3, 3-1 Region 5-7A) at the top of the region standings.
A key to McCachren's success has been her sparkling control: She has walked just two batters in those 18 region innings, including one on Thursday. She quickly gets ahead of hitters and often climbs the ladder with a riseball to finish them off, a strategy that helped McCachren collect eight strikeouts against the Raiders.
"I work ahead and then try make them swing," McCachren said. "That's what I do -- that's what I've always done."
Having McCachren on the mound and scoring early took much of the tension out of the game for the Bulldogs. They put up two in the first when the Raiders made two throwing errors on Ansley Clark's bunt, allowing both her and Sadie Waters to score, and four in the second, with McCachren driving two home on a double. McCachren helped herself further in the fifth with an RBI single.
"There's no doubt about it," Cromie said. "When you have Bailey in the circle, and you can give her runs early on in the game, it definitely boosts the confidence of everybody behind her."
The junior will have some regular innings off for the time being. But if the Bulldogs go to her on a full-time basis later in the year, like Lambert did with Kassidy Krupit in 2017, McCachren certainly wouldn't protest.
"Yeah," she said. "I like that."
North fell to 4-8, 2-2 with the loss.