It's one of the most common threads in sports—you want to be playing your best when it matters most.
In the case of South Forsyth's softball team, they're coming in so white-hot they almost couldn't believe it for themselves.
South clinched one of eight spots in the GHSA Class AAAAAA state championships on Wednesday night with an offensive outburst the players might never forget, taking down Newnan 10-4 and 13-1 to sweep the best-of-three series.
Five different Lady War Eagles hit home runs between the two contests. Three of them went yard in a single frame—the top of the third in Game 2. South would have had four-consecutive home runs in that inning if it wasn't for a spectacular catch at the center-field wall by Newnan's Hannah Scarbrough, denying Katherine Huey her second home run of the night. Bianca Mora also homered in that inning, along with Sophia Tapia and Jordin Englar. Lauren Baccari even left the yard earlier in the contest. Their collective derby helped South to an 8-0 lead, which blossomed to 10-1 two innings later when Mora cleared the left-field scoreboard with an exclamatory shot.
After Game 2 ended after just four innings, Mora, a junior catcher, rushed to the mound to give her pitcher, Huey, a leaping hug. Moments later the duo had to take a second to recall just how much they had done in a game and a half.
“It's actually always been one of my goals to hit the scoreboard in center field,” Mora said. “I finally hit that tonight on my first home run.”
“When one person hits a home run, the entire dugout gets excited. It can really lift the other players up,” Huey said.
Davis said it's not uncommon for Huey and Mora to count eachother off in games, but Tapia's long ball was the performance of the night.
“We had (Tapia) on deck, Huey was up after Bianca's home run and Tap was already chatting and saying she was going to get one. We were giving her a hard time--(Huey and Mora) have six, a piece, on the year. Next thing you know Tap had the last laugh,” Davis said.
In the two games, combined, South had 28 hits, nine multi-hit performances and 20 RBIs. Mora finished the day going 6 for 7 at the plate with three singles, a double, two home runs and eight RBIs, though it was Emily Harris who became the nucleus of the team in Game 1.
Harris went 4 for 4 at the plate as a leadoff hitter, scoring four runs and recording an RBI, but she also played a pivotal role in giving Huey a break on the mound. After South took a 7-0 lead through five innings, Harris entered to pitch the final two frames. Despite giving up seven hits and four runs, she still managed the crucial six outs needed to finish the contest.
For Harris, a junior who excels at shortstop, the performance was part of a unique playoff atmosphere. While most softball teams feature a single pitcher during a regular season, the best-of-three series in the postseason require a bullpen.
“In those situations, knowing just how gritty and determined (Emily) is, there was no doubt in my mind, at any point, she would give the effort and stay focused, and in the end we got the outs,” Davis said.
“I haven't gotten too many innings on the mound, so it was a little difficult. I just had to stick with it and trust myself,” Harris said.
Huey dominated the first five frames of the night, allowing two hits and a walk against eight strikeouts. She then struck out four more and gave up two hits in the shortened Game 2.
“You definitely have to keep your pitch count down to last in a series,” Huey said. “You have to be more efficient and get ahead because not only does it reduce the pitches but it gives you more to work with.”
South, which won the region championship with a 16-1 record, will look to claim the bigger title when it heads south to play the championship-bracket portion of the tournament. The championship will be played at the South Commons Softball Complex in downtown Columbus on Thursday, Friday and Saturday.
Davis isn't shocked his team has gotten this far.
“A lot of kids in these programs, juniors or seniors, are three-year starters. They understand when they were freshman, especially these juniors, they saw what taking a lump was like. They saw it first hand, they learned a lot from it. I think after losing to Brookwood (last year), it left a bitter taste in their mouth, especially because of the way we lost—a ton of errors. We beat ourselves, they didn't beat us. These girls know if they take care of business they're good enough to get a shot, maybe even against Brookwood again. That's what it is all about.”