All Katie Traynor could do was look into the distance.
With South Forsyth’s softball team down two runs to start a decisive Game 3 against Brookwood that could make or break the War Eagles’ 2019 season, she was certainly feeling the pressure mount as she stood in the batter’s box in the fourth inning with a runner on. Not much was going through her mind, but with the nerves still there, she had to find a way to settle in, and found her answer beyond the center field fence.
“I was looking straight up at the trees right before I hit the ball,” she said. “I had to calm down somehow or else I was going to swing way too early and just miss the ball.”
That approach certainly worked, with Traynor connecting on a two-run home run to left, tying the game and jump-starting an eventual six-run rally for South.
“It felt huge,” Traynor said. “That's my first (home run) for the program, if I'm not wrong. That one felt good.”
And the home run wasn’t the only clutch hit for Traynor, who also connected on a game-sealing two-RBI double in the sixth to lead the War Eagles to a 9-4 victory over the Broncos. The victory advances South (14-17) into the second round of the Class 7A state playoffs. They’ll host Peachtree Ridge next week.
“It's very exciting,” South head coach Leanne Brooks said. “Yesterday, it was kind of like we played two different ways: our best and our worst. Today, I told them that we've got to take care of the ball. If we don't do that, we're not going to make it happen. We've got to be able to make adjustments in the box. In Game 2, we didn't do that as much, and tonight, they came out here to get after it.”
The War Eagles’ efforts to stave elimination didn’t start off well, though. In the first, Brookwood’s Olivia Jaime hit a deep ball to left that just barely cleared the fence for a solo home run, and an error allowed the Broncos to enter the bottom half with a 2-0 lead.
“It was early in the game, so I don't think that it discouraged them really that much,” Brooks said. “There's still a lot of game time after that. It's not over until you give up.”
Brookwood held onto that lead until Traynor’s tying home run in the fourth, and right after that, more War Eagles followed up. Ashley Chu scored Ruthie Allen on a sacrifice bunt, and three RBI singles from Ansley Chiang, Isabel Hui and Kennedy Ariail gave South a commanding 6-2 lead at the end of the frame.
“We just kept feeding off of each other,” Brooks said. “Once one thing happened, they didn't try to be too big. We tried to stay within ourselves, do what we could do and not be more than that. That's all I can ask for from them.”
The Broncos got two back in the fifth and sixth on an error and a solo home run, but in the bottom half of that inning, Chiang added another RBI single and Traynor scored Chiang and Hui on a double that extended the lead to five.
Hannah Marchman did the rest from the circle, retiring the last three batters to secure the win, finishing her night with two strikeouts and seven hits allowed over seven innings.
The War Eagles are a much different team than the one that reached the second round last year, with plenty of younger role players gracing the roster. But the goals and expectations remain the same, and South is excited for the challenge.
“It feels good,” Traynor said. “I'm just ready to play some more.”