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Softball: West downs Central on 10th inning walk-off after scoreless pitchers' duel
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West Forsyth's Lindsey Andrews celebrates after hitting a walk-off double in the 10th inning to give the Wolverines a 2-1 win over Forsyth Central on Sept. 13, 2018 at West Forsyth High School. - photo by Ian Frazer

West Forsyth’s softball team had seen this movie before.

Less than a month ago, the Wolverines fell victim to Lambert at the end of a 12-inning marathon. On Thursday against Forsyth Central, West found itself in another extra-inning situation, this time in the midst of a scoreless pitching duel between the Bulldogs’ Bailey McCachren and the Wolverines’ Hannah Guthrie.

The Wolverines were determined not to let the past repeat itself, and they didn’t, scoring two runs in the bottom of the 10th inning, walking off on a Lindsey Andrews double to take a 2-1 win.

“I’m just proud of my kids and the way we competed,” West head coach Justin Rickett said. “It hasn’t been easy for this group, but we’re finding ways to come together. They’re just competing, and there’s no substitute for that.”

The game entered the top of the 10th scoreless, with only one runner making it to third for the whole contest before that point. With the help of the international tiebreaker rule, Central began the 10th inning with Ansley Clark at second, and it didn’t take long for the Bulldogs to bring her in for a 1-0 lead. The flashbacks to the Lambert game were swimming through the Wolverines’ heads.

“I was just thinking as it kept on going, ‘This can’t end like the other one,’” Guthrie said. “This is our chance.”

The Wolverines did get their chance. Caroline Hayes began the bottom of the 10th at second. With Guthrie batting to start West’s bid to stay alive, she popped up near the plate on a bunt attempt. Central third baseman Gracie Smith dove to make a play on the ball, but it bounced off the tip of her glove, allowing Hayes to slide into third under the tag and allowed Guthrie to reach first.

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West Forsyth's Caroline Hayes and Forsyth Central's Lauren Wall look towards the umpire after a play at third during the teams' softball game on Sept. 13, 2018 at West Forsyth High School.
West tied the game at 1-1 during the next at-bat, when Madison Michael reached first on some indecision on an infield grounder, allowing Hayes to score. After Bailee Martin bunted Michael and Guthrie into scoring position, Andrews stepped into the batters’ box with nothing but confidence.

“The second that Maddie touched first, I was like, ‘We got this,’” Andrews said. “That felt so good, going into that at-bat and saying, ‘We got this.’”

McCachren had her way with the Wolverines to that point, finishing her night with nine strikeouts, allowing five hits and no walks. Andrews, having faced McCachren three times prior and having singled in her last at-bat, was noticing a pattern.

“I knew she was throwing riseballs,” Andrews said. “She throws that riseball and then she throws you something to hit. I saw her throw the riseball and said, ‘This next pitch is it.’ I sat back and I drove it as relaxed as can be.”

Guthrie, who finished her winning effort with 10 strikeouts over all 10 innings, kept the Bulldogs just as stymied offensively as the Wolverines were. Much of that had to do with defense, which West has struggled with at times this year. Ashley Schell made a nice throw to first from shortstop from her knees for an out in the sixth, and in the eighth, Avery Wassilchak made a sliding catch in left.

The Wolverines knew they were in for a tough test against McCachren going in. The plan was to play mistake-free defense, which West ultimately did.

“Bailey’s always a challenge,” Guthrie said. “We enjoy a challenge –  I told (the team) before the game if they could keep it error-free, I would keep the runs down, and we’d eventually get a run.”

West now stands at 12-8 overall and 4-4 in Region 5-7A. Central, which had first place all to itself before Thursday, dropped to 5-3 in the region and is now tied for first with South Forsyth after the War Eagles' win over Lambert.