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Softball: South Forsyth reaches super regional title game
Sarah Quian home run 10-21-22
Sarah Quian, far right, runs to home plate, as her teammates wait to greet her, following a solo homer in a Class 7A super regional matchup against Peachtree Ridge Friday at home. (Photo by Nicholas Sullivan)

Day 1 of the South Forsyth super regional couldn't have gone much better for the host War Eagles. Now the locals get two chances to qualify for the Class 7A state tournament in Columbus.

Following a pair of four-run wins Friday over Walton, 5-1, and Peachtree Ridge, 7-3, South Forsyth advanced to the super regional finals and needs to win just one of a possible two games to move on to the next round.

“You never know what’s going to happen, coming into bracket play like this,” War Eagles head coach Leanne Brooks said. “Honestly, I couldn’t have asked for a better performance for the girls. They were sound defensively. We only made one, maybe two errors all day. We found our bats in the second game. It was great.”

A normally robust offense struggled a bit in the opening game.

However, No. 1 South Forsyth managed to parlay its five hits into five runs, while the combination of Ellie Balose and Josie Crossman limited fourth-seeded Walton to a single tally on seven hits.

After scoring once in each of the first, third and fourth frames, the War Eagles countered a fifth-inning tally by the Raiders with two runs of their own.

Balose earned the victory in the circle, while Crossman garnered a save.

“Our bats didn’t really come alive to get that bigger lead until the second half of the game,” Brooks said. “They actually had more hits than us in the first game. They had more walks that we were able to take advantage of to get around the bases. We stole a few bases. There were some wild pitches.

“That’s something we’ve talked about all year. We, as a team, have to minimize our walks and our errors.”

The South Forsyth offense erupted in the second contest — highlighted by Sarah Quian and Audrey Hui launching home runs.

“Being disciplined at the plate is what we’ve kind of preached to them all season,” Brooks said. “When you get into that hitter’s count, you need to be able to wait on your pitch. When we are able to do that and keep that discipline, that’s when we’re able to find success.”

Kennedy Ariail continued her phenomenal season with a pair of massive triples.

The first came in the second inning, and Charlotte Brooks drove in Ariail for the game's opening run. After No. 2 seed Peachtree Ridge evened the score in the third inning, Ariail laced a two-run three-bagger with two outs in the home half of the inning to give South Forsyth (23-6) the lead for good.

“That was huge,” coach Brooks said of Ariail's go-ahead hit. “It kind of set a different tone for us moving into the second half of the game.”

If that hit didn't effectively set the tone, then Quian's three-run blast in the fourth to extend the War Eagles' lead to 6-2 certainly did.

“Unfortunately this season, she did find herself in a little bit of a slump,” Brooks said of Quian, who batted ninth against the Lions. “… We’ve just been trying to keep her level-headed to stay out of that slump. And she did a great job tonight.”

Hui's solo dinger pushed South Forsyth's advantage to five runs entering the seventh inning, providing a big psychological boost for the home team.

“Before Audrey’s homer it was 6-2, so a grand slam ties the ballgame,” Brooks said. “You get that extra run, and they can’t just do it with that one hit. That was huge for us and gives you the ability to kind of relax a little bit more, not be so tense.”

Fueling that feeling was the fact that Peachtree Ridge, which knocked South Forsyth out of the state playoffs in 2019 and 2021, had loaded the bases in the top of the sixth with one out.

With the potential tying run at the plate, the Lions popped up right in front of home plate. While an infield fly automatically retired the batter, the War Eagles struggled to corral the ball, as it bounced off third baseman Emme Souter's glove and into the first baseman's mitt of Karly Casey.

A heads-up Casey fired the ball to third base to force out a wandering Peachtree Ridge runner to retire the side.

“It was great,” Brooks said of the wild play. “We were going nuts. The play before, we thought we had her picked off at third, so that was kind of a letdown, with having the bases loaded and just the four-run gap.

“Coming out with that double play, that just changed the tone of that inning. It really did.”

Crossman to Casey 10-21-22
South Forsyth pitcher Josie Crossman (19) throws to first baseman Karly Casey to retire a batter during a Class 7A super regional matchup against Peachtree Ridge Friday at home. (Photo by Nicholas Sullivan)

Even though Casey deservedly received credit for being in the right place to snag the ball in the air, shortstop Ansley Chiang also showed stellar instincts to cover third base on the seemingly straightforward play.

“That’s the great thing about Ansley, she has great knowledge of the game,” Brooks said. “She’s always looking to get that extra out. Nine times out of 10, you’re going to see her where she is supposed to be and needs to be."

Despite a solo blast in the top of the seventh from the Lions — their second homer of the evening — Crossman closed out her complete-game effort with relatively little drama.

In the catbird seat entering Day 2, South Forsyth will await the winner of Peachtree Ridge and Dacula in the championship game at 4 p.m. Saturday. A loss for the War Eagles would trigger the "if needed" game later that evening.

Essentially, South Forsyth is one win away from its first trip to the eight-team double-elimination state tournament since 2016. Whereas the Lions and Falcons need three victories in successive games to accomplish the feat.

“It makes the night a lot better; it makes tomorrow morning a lot better” Brooks said of going 2-0 on the opening day. “Win or lose, these girls have so much to be proud of. I couldn’t have asked for a better season out of them. All we can do is hope for the best and continue to perform how we’ve been performing.”