The stakes are higher for Forsyth Central softball coach Kaelin Stevens when the Bulldogs face county and Region 5-7A rival South Forsyth this season. Stevens got married in the offseason to Taylor Stevens, South’s assistant coach, and the two made a family wager: whoever’s team wins the best-of-three region series, the other person has to cook a meal for the entire opposing team.
When asked who is the better cook, Kaelin Stevens didn’t hesitate.
“He is,” she said.
So Central’s 3-2 win against South at home Tuesday was an encouraging start to the family rivalry, but also an encouraging start for the Bulldogs’ region schedule behind opportunistic offense and a gutsy pitching performance from Bailey McCachren.
The Bulldogs scored their runs on an error and wild pitch, while McCachren scattered three walks and eight hits over seven innings with seven strikeouts.
She maintained her poised against an aggressive South lineup with a simple mantra.
“One out – one out at a time,” McCachren said.
Central struggled much of last season as it moved up to Class 7A and into Region 5 with the rest of the county’s public high schools. The Bulldogs went 8-16 overall and 4-11 in region, but there was a glimmer of confidence at the very end – a 5-3 win against South and a 1-0 loss to North Forsyth in Central’s final two games.
“We ended (last) year with a 1-0 loss to North (on a) walk-off home run, and from that moment on we’ve worked,” Kaelin Stevens said. “I think it’s very apparent in the way the girls are playing right now.”
Indeed, Central is 7-2 overall and 1-0 in region, though Tuesday’s win wasn’t the sharpest performance for the Bulldogs this season. They managed just four hits off South pitcher Lauren Baccari, were caught stealing and in a run-down and twice were called out for being out of the batter’s box on slap bunt attempts.
Still, the Bulldogs found a way. They loaded the bases in the bottom of the fourth inning and scored twice on an infield error to take a 2-0 lead. South got even in the following half inning on a RBI line drive by Baccari and bases loaded walk by Cat Rife, but Central responded. Sadie Waters led off the bottom of the fifth with a triple, then scurried home on a wild pitch to give the Bulldogs the lead for good.
McCachren held South from there, stranding runners at second and third in the sixth and working around Rife’s two-out double in the seventh to earn the complete game victory.
“We just battled out there,” Kaelin Stevens said. “We didn’t hit very well. We didn’t run the bases well at all. But they fought, and they battled. They’re a scrappy group.”
And they’re one win away from a well-cooked meal.