By Cole Rogers
For the Forsyth County News
North Forsyth cruised past Hillgrove 11-1 Thursday in a winner-take-all Game 3 and punched its ticket to the state tournament in Columbus.
Not only are the Raiders are heading to the state tournament for the first time in 14 years, but they’re going in as a No. 1 seed with a lot of momentum.
Before the game even started, the Raiders were jumping around getting themselves psyched up. They had a lot of energy and were yelling out in support and encouragement for each other throughout the game.
“We’re like sisters. We always play as a team,” North Forsyth pitcher Hailey Mize said. “We have a huge bond, and we’re all just really positive.”
Kyleigh Sanders made quick work of the Hillgrove offense in the first inning, and the Raiders were able to get on base and score two runs with a few singles.
The second inning was very similar to the first. Sanders got three outs quickly, and the Raiders were able to score three more runs off several more singles.
The Raiders had a 5-0 lead going into the third inning, but they were only getting warmed up.
Sanders gave up a home run in the top of the third but was able to get the last out and get the Raiders offense back onto the field.
The Raiders came out swinging in the bottom of the third and scored six runs to make it 11-0. The scoring barrage was led by Mize’s huge three-run homer that cleared the fence comfortably.
“They’re great hitters. We haven’t really struggled at the plate all year, “North Forsyth coach Jim Cahill said. “We’ve been able to score runs all year long, and a lot of times it’s in bunches like that.”
Hillgrove was able to get on base in the fourth and fifth innings but were unable to score any runs.
Despite all the hits and the crazy loud environment, Sanders was unfazed during the whole game. She had four strikeouts, no walks, and only allowed one run.
“Today, I knew this was the day and there weren’t any second chances," Sanders said. “I just gave it everything I got and I knew that my teammates were behind me.”
The mercy rule was put into effect due to the 11-1 score, and once the fifth inning ended, the North Forsyth Raiders were on their way to Columbus.
“We’re just excited,” Cahill said. “Somebody’s got to go down there and win the whole thing, so we’re going to try our best.”
The GHSA fast-pitch softball state championship starts Oct. 24 and ends Oct. 26. North Forsyth will face Mountain View in the Elite 8.