When Forsyth Central’s Bailey McCachren steps foot on the softball diamond, she always contributes, but it’s typically with her arm.
On Wednesday, though, it was McCachren’s bat that made a huge difference for the Bulldogs, as she whacked a walk-off two run home run in the bottom of the seventh to give the Bulldogs a 4-2 win over West Forsyth in the final game of the Region 5-7A tournament. The victory clinched a No. 3 seed for Central in the upcoming state playoffs.
“We hung in there,” Central head coach Paul Cromie said. “It’s what we’ve been preaching. Our chemistry is finally starting to click. We’ve made changes in the lineup, we’ve made changes in the defense. The bottom line is we went five or six innings making the plays and keeping ourselves in the game, and that’s huge.”
Heading into the bottom of the seventh, both teams were tied 2-2. Both had played well on defense, hardly allowing any balls out of the infield since the first inning. Central had left nine runners on base since scoring in the first. Sadie Waters singled to open Central’s half of the inning, and then McCachren stepped to the plate and delivered the finishing blow.
“I was looking for my spot just because it was a hitter’s count,” McCachren said. “I was also just thinking, ‘Move the runner.’ It was right down the middle—it was just my pitch and I went for it.”
McCachren would usually be in the circle for a game as crucial as Wednesday’s, but Cromie gave her the night off to rest her arm. He had confidence in junior Kristi Brower, as did the rest of the team.
“She’s thrown a number of innings for us this year,” Cromie said. “We had the confidence in her. The girls were like, ‘Coach, put her in.’ She came through (and) pitched a gem. I’m real proud of her.”
Her start didn’t’ begin in the best way, though. Brower allowed two runs in the first, with Kelsey Schell and Katelyn Cooper scoring for the Wolverines for an early 2-0 lead.
It didn’t take long for Central to even the score. In the bottom half of the opening inning, the Bulldogs’ Sydney Moroney and Ansley Clark both scored, on an error and a groundout, to knot it back up.
From there, both offenses stalled, thanks to the pitching of Brower and West starter Madison Michael. Brower finished with two strikeouts and allowed six hits in her seven innings of work.
“I was nervous, but I trusted my teammates, and I was like, ‘Let’s do this,’” Brower said. “They backed me up in the field and hitting.”
Central moves on to face Archer in the first round of the playoffs. West, the No. 4 state playoff seed, will face Grayson.
“I like the way the bracket’s set up,” Cromie said. “I think we’re going to be real competitive, and I’m excited going in with the way that we’re playing.”