Makenna Segal, now a sophomore, is no longer a mystery. The South Forsyth third baseman is almost always approached delicately by opposing pitchers, and now that teams can issue an intentional walk without throwing a pitch, they often just do that.
On Tuesday, though, South had to deal with an opposing pitcher who was just as hot in the circle as Segal was at the plate. Forsyth Central's Bailey McCachren had thrown 18 innings in region play heading into the matchup, and 17 had been scoreless. The War Eagles couldn't ignore McCachren's stature, but they could control how they approached her.
"We've got to face her, so we can't look at it and think you're defeated before," South head coach Ronnie Davis said. "We've just got to stay true to our process."
They had a strategy prepared -- key on pitches high and outside, go the other way, and try not to work too late in the count -- and Segal used that to win the most important battle on Tuesday evening. With South leading 2-1 in the fourth inning with two runners on base, Segal pounced on McCachren's first pitch and sent a ball over the center field fence. That gave the War Eagles the runs they needed to secure a 5-3 win and reclaim a hold on first place in the region.
"I go up there thinking (that) no matter what, I'm going to get pitched to," Segal said. "And if I get intentionally walked, so be it: It's another baserunner. I think teams are thinking that they can get the best of me and attempting to pitch to me, but they don't know everything I can do."
The War Eagles were clearly prepared for McCachren, but they were also lucky to catch her on an off night. The junior lefthander issued three walks in the first, one of which drove Segal home after she had reached on a free pass to start the game. South got its other run in the frame on an error after a wild pitch.
McCachren settled down soon after, though, and she had retired eight straight before Hannah Marchman singled for South with two outs in the bottom of the fourth. Ruthie Allen then walked, setting the scene for Segal's dinger.
It wouldn't have been terribly unexpected for Central to have walked Segal, but she would have been ready either way.
"My direct conversation with her is, 'That could be the thing that happens, but if you go into it thinking that, you're going to have a failed at-bat,'" Davis said. "'You're going to be surprised, so never be surprised. Make somebody prove you otherwise, and always be prepared for every situation.'"
Central scored in the fifth on Sadie Waters' RBI single and again in the seventh, with pitcher Lauren Baccari loaded the bases and hit Caraline Bryant, but Baccari got McCachren to line out softly to end the game. The result created another tie at the top of the Region 5-7A standings: South improved to 5-6 overall and 3-2 in the region, and Central fell to 6-4, 3-2.