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Softball: North Forsyth brings 17-game winning streak into playoffs
McKayla Cothran
North Forsyth players congratulate junior McKayla Cothran Sept. 24 during a 6-4 win against South Forsyth in the Region 5-7A tournament at North Forsyth High School. - photo by David Roberts

Each week it's been someone different.

Adaline Nix came through in the eighth inning last month against Forsyth Central, using an RBI single to break a 3-3 tie and score Maggie McBrayer, giving the Raiders a 4-3 win.

McKayla Cothran had a game-winning hit of her own against Central, singling down the right-field line in the final frame to score Lauren Fields and win the game 4-3.

Ashleigh Grace had one three days earlier when her walkoff RBI single plated Fields and lifted North over Harris County, 8-7.

North Forsyth (26-2) played in six games decided by one run this season.

They haven't lost one yet.

"It seems like, if it’s a tight ball game, there’s somebody different stepping up all the time," North Forsyth head coach Jim Cahill said. "We’ve had some late-inning heroics and it’s always been someone else stepping up.”

In fact, the Raiders haven't lost a game since Aug. 22 when they were beaten 7-5 by South Forsyth.

The team's last win, a 6-4 victory, completed a two-game sweep of South and gave North its second straight Region 5-7A championship.

North is currently riding a 17-game winning streak, which matches the 2018 team's win total for the entire season.

“I don’t really keep up with that kind of stuff, but I know we’ve been playing really well right now," Cahill said. "It reminds me that we’ve had some pretty successful teams in baseball and softball. Right now, I’d say our record is 0-0, just like everybody else.”

Part of Cahill's caution can be explained by the way North's season ended last year.

The Raiders, a region winner and No. 1 seed similar to this season, were swept out of the playoffs by North Gwinnett, 6-0 and 2-1.

Pitcher Chandler Dennis dismantled North Forsyth's offense, limiting the Raiders' offense to just two hits while striking out 14 in one of the wins.

“She was every bit of a DI, Power 5 pitcher," Cahill said. "We know we’re going to see that down the road, so it’s prepared us for this year, I think.”

North Forsyth's offense is different this year.

Ashleigh Grace, who missed all of last season, is tied with Mallorie Black for the team lead in hits (43), though Grace holds the edge with a team-high .566 batting average.

Black leads the Raiders in nearly every other offensive category, including doubles (11), home runs (9) and RBIs (52).

Grace's contributions extend past the batter's box, as North's junior catcher leads the team with 26 stolen bases.

“Having Ashleigh Grace back helps add more speed to the lineup," Cahill said. "We’ve been able to play Lauren Fields in certain situations, and that adds even more speed to the lineup. We’ve got some girls who can run the bases, some slappers, some girls who can bunt and steal bags, and we’ve definitely got some girls who can drive them in, too.”

In all, North stole 118 bases in 126 chances during the regular season. McKayla Cothran is second on the team with 24 steals.

North also has a pair of 10-game winners in the pitcher's circle, with Kyleigh Sanders leading the team with a spotless 10-0 record and 2.28 ERA.

Hailey Mize won 10 games, while Sarah Lowe added five.

“Kyleigh Sanders has really been one of the ones who has stepped up this year as a senior and done a great job," Cahill said. "I guess if there was one — not unexpected, but she’s really improved a lot and stayed healthy. She’s battled injuries her whole four years here — just like little nagging things. 

"So, she’s pretty tough. And I think not only are we a pretty talented team, but we’re a pretty tough team, too."

North will host Berkmar at 4 p.m. Wednesday, with Game 2 starting immediately after the first game.

Berkmar (6-13) is the No. 4 team from Region 7-7A.

If the Raiders win Wednesday, they will host the winner of Camden County (18-9) and Hillgrove (18-7).