North Forsyth shortstop Mallorie Black has a word in mind to describe the 2018 Raiders: To her, they’re fighters.
This year, that label may be more relevant than ever, from Ashleigh Grace’s ongoing recovery from her preseason injuries, to rebounding from a 2-7 start to the season, to erasing a nine-run deficit to beat South Forsyth in the first game of the Region 5-7A championship series on Monday.
On Wednesday, the Raiders were finally able to bask in the culmination of all their efforts, as they held off the War Eagles a second time to take a 5-3 victory, and with it, the 2018 region title.
“They’ve worked hard all year,” North Forsyth softball head coach Jim Cahill said. “This is what they’ve played for all year long. Every game we play against South is a tough game. That’s just the way we match up against each other, I guess.
Heading into the bottom of the seventh, North’s Hailey Mize had a 5-2 lead to work with. With just three outs to go, South did not go away quietly, loading the bases with one out and scoring on an RBI single from Kylie League. With the game’s tying run at second and the winning run for South at first after League’s hit, Mize settled in and induced a groundout and a flyout for the win.
“We have to let people get their money’s worth, right?” Cahill laughed. “They’re going to put the ball in play a lot. They have a great two strike approach.”
Black, who finished 2-for-4 with two RBIs and a run scored, broke North’s record for RBIs in a season on Wednesday. Both of her record-breaking RBIs came when her team needed them most – the first came on a fifth-inning double that scored Adaline Nix for a 3-2 lead. The second, which also scored Nix, gave the Raiders some much-needed insurance in the seventh.
“That’s icing on top of the cake, I guess,” Black said. “I didn’t even know that I was even close to it. That was just a surprise to me and it makes me really happy.”
North jumped ahead early in the game, with Brooke Black bringing in Anslee Anderson for the game’s first run in the second. MacKenzie Marvin followed that up by scoring on a South error at shortstop, leading to a 2-0 lead heading into the bottom half.
South responded quickly on a Ruthie Allen double that scored Drew Necaise in the same inning, and in the fifth, the War Eagles tied it back up when Hannah Marchman scored on a fielding error.
Black’s two RBIs, along with another from Abby Martin in the seventh, ultimately put North over the top. Before her second hit, Black knew she had to come through, even if it was against one of the county’s best arms.
“I did not want to go into the (bottom of the) seventh inning with a one-run lead,” Black said. “That never ends (well), especially if we’re guests. Lauren Baccari was dealing to me. She knew how to pitch to me. I was not confident going into that at-bat, but I’m glad it worked out.”
North will now host at least one state playoff series, and two if it can advance past the first round. Black and the rest of the Raiders hope their fighting mentality can keep fueling them, just like it did when things weren’t so great.
“I knew we wanted it really bad, but it was kind of hard to turn the season around,” Black said. “We were all kind of down on ourselves. I remember going into the Lambert game like, ‘Y’all, we need to win.’ I’m just so surprised and happy that we did.”