The hits had been scarce for South Forsyth Lady War Eagles softball all night, so Stephanie Harris knew head coach Ronnie Davis might call on her to sacrifice her swing for the trickery of a squeeze bunt in the top of the eighth inning of Game 2 in South’s playoff series against Woodstock. With the rules of the international tiebreaker in play – no outs, runner on second to start the inning – just one run separated the Lady War Eagles from a sweep into the second round for the first time in, well, even Davis didn’t how long. It might be time to manufacture a finish.
Instead, when the ideal situation presented itself, after Sofia Tapia had bunted over Jordan Harris to third base, putting her 60 tantalizing feet away from home, Harris got the green light from Davis.
“When he didn’t call [the squeeze], it was just perfect,” Stephanie Harris said.
The ball sailed into the right field gap, Jordan Harris pumped her arms in the air as she crossed home plate and South got the crucial break it needed for a 2-1 victory over Woodstock on Wednesday night. With a 1-0 victory in Game 1, the No. 9-ranked Lady War Eagles (22-6-1) swept their way into the second round of the Class AAAAAA playoffs for the first time since the GHSA eliminated the sectional format in 2008.
South plays Brookwood, a 6-1 and 14-1 winner over Mountain View, next Wednesday in Snellville.
“Our kids did a phenomenal job of staying in the present and being comfortable in an uncomfortable situation,” Davis said. “That’s what it’s about right there.”
“It feels great,” Stephanie Harris said. “This is the farthest we’ve been in my senior year, so it’s just great to be able to know that we’ve improved so much.”
A year ago, South was in the same position, the No. 2 seed hosting a first round playoff series. The Lady War Eagles were dominated then by an infusion of freshmen talent. Skilled but inexperienced, South wilted in a two-game sweep to Grayson, unable to hit or pitch well enough on the brighter stage.
On Wednesday, the Lady War Eagles put forth a redemptive performance. Sophomore pitcher Katherine Huey was equal parts dominant and resilient. She pitched a complete-game shutout in Game 1, allowing just three hits and striking out eight but also stranding runners in scoring position in the first, third and sixth innings. She pitched 3 2/3 innings of shutout relief in Game 2, retiring the final eight Woodstock (14-16) batters.
Perhaps no outs were more critical than when Huey entered Game 2. After four near-perfect innings, starter Kara Bilodeau had left her with the bases loaded, one out and South ahead just 1-0. Huey induced a fielder’s choice then a strikeout to end the inning.
Woodstock had tied the game, but Huey had limited the damage.
“Coming in with the bases loaded was nerve-wracking,” Huey said, “because I was like, ‘I can’t let them score.’ They scored one, but we came back. My team picked me up.”
“That’s Katherine Huey,” Davis said. “That’s the stuff you expect from your No. 1 [pitcher]. There have been times during the season that Bilodeau has done the flip-flop, and Bilodeau has come in when Huey has started a game and picked her up. That’s just what it’s about. You just trust your teammates.”
They trusted that eventually somebody would break up Woodstock pitcher Danielle Rubin’s no-hitter in Game 1, and Bianca Mora came through with a single in the fifth. Two batters later, Amy Kilmer drove her home with a single into left field for the only run South needed.
They trusted that a formula of sound defense, strong pitching and timely hitting would be enough to carry out the sweep in Game 2, and all three played a part. Stephanie Harris and Emily Harris hit back-to-back doubles in the third to go 1-0, Bilodeau and Huey stymied Woodstock’s lineup and South was flawless in the field.
Now, after two one-run games, including one in extra innings, South trusts it’s ready for another round.
“It took all 17 players and five coaches,” Davis said, “but those are the kind of ballgames I think our kids are going to have to get used to being in.”