Through a Region 5-7A softball schedule in which teams face each other three times during the regular season, perfection figures to be a tough bar to meet.
North Forsyth didn’t meet that standard Thursday against Forsyth Central, but the Lady Raiders prevailed anyway thanks to the depth of its pitching and the potency of its lineup in a 10-2 victory against the Lady Bulldogs in six innings Thursday at home.
When Lady Raiders (6-1, 2-0) ace Sara King couldn’t make it past the first inning, Ashton Bruce came in to pitch 4 1/3 innings of scoreless relief.
When North’s lineup went relatively silent the first time through the order, it ignited the second time, producing 16 hits in all and forcing Central (2-4, 0-2) to use five different pitchers.
“People are not going to pitch well every night. People are not going to hit well every time you step on the field,” North head coach Bud Henderson said. “It’s other peoples’ jobs to step up.”
That was North’s challenge from the very start. Two days earlier, King had flirted with a no-hitter in a crucial region victory against West Forsyth. On Thursday, the Morehead State commit struggled to find the strike zone.
Central’s Sadie Waters led the game off with a single. Karah Straub bunted her to second. A wild pitch moved Waters to third before Morgan Watson drove her home with a sacrifice fly to put Central ahead 1-0.
Grace Kizer followed with a single, and King walked the next three batters, the last on four straight pitches, to plate Kiser and give Central a 2-0 lead.
Henderson pulled King, who went straight to North’s bullpen to figure things out. Bruce, meanwhile, restored North’s confidence.
She induced a weak grounder to end the first inning. She didn’t allow a Central runner to reach scoring position until the fifth, and when the Lady Bulldogs did muster another rally on consecutive hits from Straub and Watson, Bruce got a weak pop-up and strikeout to leave them stranded.
Bruce allowed just two hits and two walks and struck out two to earn the win, while King returned in the sixth inning with renewed vigor to pitch a harmless frame.
“I think they think we’ve got two aces,” Henderson said. “They’re as comfortable with Sara out there as they are with Ashton. They know they’re going to have to make plays, and they make plays. Ashton came in and did a fantastic job for us, keeping them right where they were.”
North’s lineup came alive from the third inning on, led by Addie Harris, who was 4-for-4 with a double and three RBI. Madelyn Oliver was 3-for-3 with a double and two RBI, Bella Caracciolo had a double, triple and RBI and Mallorie Black went 2-for-3 with three runs scored.
Central got hits from Waters, Straub, Watson, Kiser and Gracie Smith, but they were scattered after that promising first inning. The Lady Bulldogs had a 2-1 lead through two innings but lost control from there.
“At times, we competed with both teams, and I want them to see that they have the ability,” Central head coach Kaelin Farrington said. “They show it at times, but they fall apart at times. It’s keeping things together. We haven’t put it together for seven innings.”