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Softball: McCachren's near-perfect effort lifts Central past Lambert
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Forsyth Central pitcher Bailey McCachren delivers a pitch during the Bulldogs' game against Lambert on Aug. 23, 2018 at Lambert High School. McCachren had 15 strikeouts and allowed just one baserunner to reach in the 3-0 win. - photo by Ian Frazer

Forsyth Central pitcher Bailey McCachren was completely locked in.

She was focused on every individual Lambert batter in front of her on Thursday night – not on the fielders behind her, not on the heat, not on the crowd and especially not on the perfect game she was throwing.

Headed into the bottom of the fourth inning, she had collected eight straight strikeouts going back to the game’s second at-bat. Not a single Longhorn had reached first base.

“My mindset was 0-0 ballgame the whole game,” McCachren said. “You’ve just got to hold them.”

Potential history was in the making and everyone in Central’s dugout knew it. But nobody was going to commit the cardinal sin of a no-hitter or perfect game: acknowledging it. After Lambert’s Ansley Dean ended the bid with a two-out bloop single to right in the fourth, the Bulldogs had the clearance to joke about it a little.

“Nobody even brought it up,” Central head coach Paul Cromie said. “Nobody said anything until after (the hit). We were like, ‘Good Lord, you’re gonna lose it on a bloop hit like that?’ That’s part of the game. That happens. I quickly reminded them that a bloop hit is what got us started and got some runs for us. It goes both ways.”

Dean’s single was the only shred of offense that Lambert was able to muster, with McCachren sitting down every Lambert batter from that point on. Behind her complete game, 15-strikeout effort, Central stayed undefeated in region play with a 3-0 win.

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Forsyth Central's Gracie Smith is tagged out by Lambert's Kaley Varner during a softball game between the Bulldogs and Longhorns on Aug. 23, 2018 at Lambert High School. - photo by Ian Frazer
“Bailey is incredible,” Cromie said. “I’ve been around a lot of players – Bailey is one of the most hardworking players there is. People have no idea how much she puts into it in the offseason and even during the season. She’s got the heart of a lion.”

Early on, both squads struggled to get on base, with Lambert’s Brooke Miller starting her night off with three scoreless frames with four punchouts. In the fourth, a costly mistake by the Longhorns ceded the game’s only lead. After Ansley Clark connected on the game’s first hit, a double, a misplayed flyball to right allowed her to score and put Caraline Bryant in scoring position. A two-out single from Sydney Moroney plated Central’s second run before an out at third ended the inning. The Longhorns totaled three errors for the game.

 “It was a good lesson for the girls just to stay focused (and) stay in it,” Cromie said. “You never know what can happen.”

The inning was also a relief for McCachren, who finally had some runs to play with. With any undue pressure that was on her now off, she continued mowing down the Longhorns, who only put seven balls in play.

“It was just having confidence in my team, knowing that we have this,” McCachren said. “Once we got runs, it was, ‘Just keep going.’”

Some more insurance came for the Bulldogs in the sixth, with Mattie Smith connecting on an RBI single to bring in Bryant from third, who reached on a walk.

Miller took the loss, allowing four hits, one earned run, and two walks, striking out five. Lambert fell to 1-1 in region competition. For Central, the win puts them at 2-0, alone at the top of the standings.

“This is a very big win,” Cromie said. “We talked about it beforehand, the fact that (Lambert) beat North earlier in the week. We knew that it would be a great opportunity to maybe get a game up on them. We came here thinking it was a big win.”