in North Forsyth’s Thursday matchup with Lambert, the Raiders discovered that they weren’t facing the same Longhorns they’d played less than a month
Lambert was coming off three straight region wins, with each one looking more convincing than the last. Although North took an early one-run lead in the two teams’ second meeting of the season, Lambert was making them earn it, unlike their walk- and error-filled 10-4 loss on Aug. 20.
“Last time they had a few walks,” North head coach Jim Cahill said. “This time they didn't walk anybody. They did a good job and played defense behind (their pitcher). That was really the difference, I think.”
With the game tied at 1-1 entering the bottom of the fifth, Lambert’s dugout was in good spirits, while North was still looking for their seemingly inevitable rally. The Raiders didn’t have to wait long – After McKayla Cothran doubled with one out in the inning, Mallorie Black brought her in.
“The more we got on base, the more we got loud,” Maggie McBrayer said. “That helped us out more.”
And McBrayer ultimately helped out the Raiders greatly a short time later, with a sharply hit ball to shortstop bringing in two more runs for a 4-1 lead.
“She did a great job,” Cahill said. “She seems to be a different person every night, stepping up.”
Ultimately, even with a short scare from the Longhorns in the seventh, North’s fifth inning was enough to put the game out of reach for Lambert, as the Raiders took a 5-2 win to improve to 15-2 overall and 5-1 in Region 5-7A. The Longhorns fell to 5-9 overall and 3-3 in region play.
“It was a great softball game,” Cahill said. “(It was) fun to coach, fun to watch. We know we can score at any time. We're lucky that we can do that whether it's driving the ball in the gap or just using our speed on the bases.”
The Raiders went ahead quickly, with an RBI single from Abby Martin scoring Cothran for their first lead, but in the fourth, the Longhorns answered with a game-tying base hit from Courtney Sauer that scored Katelyn Boyette.
After North’s big fifth inning, the Raiders’ Ashleigh Grace scored on an error in the sixth to make it 5-1. Lambert put two runners on with one out in the seventh, and although Brooke Miller notched an infield single to narrow the deficit to three runs, North pitcher Hailey Mize worked through the jam to close out the win.
“The girls might not (think so) now, but we played a better game,” Lambert coach Brooks Youngblood said. “I'm pretty sure that North is going to end up either in the 1 or 2 spot at the end of the year. I still feel like we’re that No. 2 team. I'd love to play them again in a best-of-three for that championship.”
Mize allowed eight hits and walked just one in her complete-game win. In addition to hitting the game-tying single, Sauer pitched well over her 4 1/3 innings for Lambert, with many of the hits she gave up never leaving the infield.
“She was fantastic,” Youngblood said. "She got ground balls. She got a little tired, maybe, at the end and gave up a couple of hits, which I think we just hard ground balls that found their way through.”
North and Lambert both have critical region games coming up next week, with the Longhorns facing Forsyth Central and the Raiders visiting South Forsyth. The War Eagles are the only Region 5-7A team to beat North so far, and the Raiders are eager to get even.
“They did a good job,” Cahill said. “They had a great game plan playing against us last time, and I'm sure they'll do the same. We've got to be ready.”