As freshman Riley Carr stood in the circle for South Forsyth on Wednesday night, the War Eagles’ entire season hung in the balance.
What was once a comfortable five-run lead was now a precarious two-run cushion. With the bases loaded with two outs in the seventh, Mill Creek threatened to jump on South’s young arm and send the War Eagles home for the season. Head coach Ronnie Davis took a timeout and the team huddled together.
“I was just reminding them of the situation,” Davis said. “Sometimes, somebody just needs a break.”
Carr and the rest of the War Eagles took their coach’s reminder to heart, with South hanging on to take a series-tying 7-5 win in game two of its second-round playoff series with Mill Creek, after falling 3-2 in game one.
After falling just short of a comeback win in game one, South began game two by jumping out ahead. Mill Creek’s pitching was off the mark, walking three straight South batters to start the second. Lauren Baccari and Kylie League each of them knocked in RBI singles to bring in three runs. After a fielder’s choice in the third brought Chloe Traynor home, the War Eagles had a 6-1 lead.
But slowly, that advantage started to vanish. In the fifth, the Hawks got two with a bases-loaded walk and a sacrifice fly. Mill Creek’s Dallis Goodnight jumpstarted her team’s comeback bid by leading off the sixth with a triple and scoring on an error during the same play.
“(We) got humbled a little bit with reminding them that they’re not invincible,” Davis said.
After a hit batter on the next play, Davis turned to Carr to relieve starter Baccari and get the War Eagles out of the jam. She allowed a run, but after a rough start, she escaped the inning with a one-run lead intact, before securing the save one inning later.
“I don’t know if she truly knows what’s kind of at stake in these games,” Davis said. “Sometimes (players) are just inexperienced enough not to get caught up in the moment. We just try to keep it that way.”
South came close to taking the series lead in game one, thanks to Mill Creek’s missed chances. The War Eagles trailed 3-0 after three innings after a two-run home run from the Hawks’ Madison Dobbins, but Mill Creek could have easily had more than that. The Hawks stranded seven runners from the third through fifth innings, loading the bases twice in that span. Baserunning mistakes didn’t help either, with the War Eagles catching the Hawks flat-footed three times.
Even so, the bats just couldn’t come through like South needed them to. Makenna Segal cut Mill Creek’s lead to 3-1 in the third with an RBI double. In the seventh, Baccari drove in another run with a single. Segal represented the tying run at third with two outs in the seventh, but South couldn’t bring her in, forcing a do-or-die situation in game two.
The War Eagles will return to Hoschton on Thursday to determine the fate of their season. Davis hopes his team will be ready.
“Game threes are wild,” he said. “It’s like Game 7 of the World Series. It’s as far as a series can go — Anything can happen, and the team that comes up with the big plays are usually the ones that come out successful.”