Lindleigh Cole is the filthiest player on the field.
It takes a little over three innings for her to transform a spotless West Forsyth uniform into a canvas of dirt and chalk, a multitude of messes that mark different points in the game.
There was her stolen base in the top of the fourth inning, and a head-first dive into third base on the following play, then a forehand snag in the sixth inning that allowed the second baseman to leave her feet and show her range.
Each time she bounced right back up, sporting a smile and spouting words of encouragement at her teammates.
“I’m naturally excitable about everything,” Cole said. “It’s going to be my senior year and I’m going to be just as excited – probably more. I just really like the feeling of this team.”
Cole scored two runs, Abby Williams had three RBIs and pitched a complete game, and West Forsyth beat Denmark 10-2 in its Region 6-7A opener Thursday.
“It’s always better to start off 1-0 than it is 0-1,” West Forsyth head coach Justin Rickett said. “I thought we were very fortunate tonight. I thought we made things happen in situations. We didn’t swing it particularly great, but we were able to use our speed and get some bunts down and make some things happen on the basepaths.”
Williams, Emily Brown and Olivia Finamore each had two hits, while Brown and Finamore combined to drive in five runs. Caroline Hayes also had two RBIs for the Wolverines.
It was Cole’s walk in the top of the fourth inning that sparked the Wolverines’ rally.
As she reached first base, Cole looked at the dugout, tapped her helmet and shouted, ‘Let’s go,’ part of a ritual that Cole said shortstop Lillian Seitz initiated.
Three straight hits gave the Wolverines an early 2-0 lead, capped by Williams’ RBI double.
Seitz shined on defense, too, helping turn a 4-6-2 double play in the bottom of the first inning to cut down Ellery Campbell at home plate.
“I like them,” Rickett said of his middle infielders. “They both run, they both play hard, and a high motor is the greatest thing a coach can ask for.”
West stole eight bases against Denmark, a quicker pace than the Danes are used to seeing, head coach David Smart admitted.
“You’ve got to give them a lot of credit. They put a lot of pressure on us and made us play faster than we wanted to,” Smart said. “We probably haven’t seen anybody this year who’s played that fast. We kind of got a dose of that. You know, it’ll make us better if we let it. We just have to bounce back.”
Junior Taylor Gajdik took the loss for Denmark, pitching 4 2/3 innings and giving up seven runs, striking out one.
Junior Jessie DeNardo unleashed a couple of powerful singles, coming around to score in the bottom of the fourth inning.
Avery Wentz drove in DeNardo with an RBI groundout, then Kayla Smith came around to score on an Avery Callaway single to tie the game 2-2.
But West answered with a five-run fifth inning, then tacked on three more in the sixth to bury the Danes.
“I told them I was really proud of them for coming back and answering,” Smart said. “The girl they had in the circle was throwing the ball really good. She did a good job for them, and we were able to fight, scratch and claw and get a couple runs there to answer back. I told them here at the end that whenever we do that we’ve got to be able to come back out and put up a zero.”
Williams pitched six innings of two-run ball for the Wolverines, giving up five hits and striking out three.
“She’s worked really hard and we’ve played some good people up to this point, so I think she’s got some quality reps,” Rickett said of Williams. “I think all of us got off to a slow start – even her. You’ve got to get back in a grove; we hadn’t played since Saturday.”
Denmark (6-2, 2-1 Region 6-7A) made the playoffs last year for the first time in program history, but Smark acknowledges the climb from Class 4A to Class 7A presents a new challenge.
Meanwhile, the Wolverines (3-6, 1-0 Region 6-7A) are eager to put last year’s 5-20 record behind them.
“I’m so excited. Coach Rickett made up this thing called ‘burn the ships,’ and basically (it means) forget about everything last year and we’re starting fresh,” Cole said. “This has been kind of a weird year with everything, I think we can all say. We’re just going to start fresh.
“I’m so excited for this season. I can’t wait for the rest of the year.”