The trio of parents in West Forsyth's press booth couldn't contain themselves and broke out into dance between innings.
From committing four errors to taking a four-run lead, the Lady Wolverines might have finally gotten the win they've been starving for with a 5-1 victory over North Forsyth on Tuesday night.
Carlie Behan was 3 for 4 with an RBI, Kayla Hardy went yard and nine-hole hitter Gracie Martin did a little bit of everything, knocking a double, scoring a run, recording an RBI on a SAC fly and making a dazzling play in the field. To boot, three of West's runs came from courtesy runners in the bottom of the sixth, while a fourth came off a pinch-hit single from Emily Kraft. Christie Carpenter, Arynn Pickvet and Ashley Schell were the additional contributors to cross home plate.
In all, it might have felt like a turning point for West head coach Justin Rickett. Heading into the contest West (5-8, 2-3 Region 5-7A) had dropped five of its last seven games and had yet to win a contest against a county opponent in three tries.
“I think that the adversity and things we have dealt with so far, we've had tough games, but our kids realize to keep playing and just worry about the next pitch. I think we're growing up a lot,” Rickett said.
Winning against county foes is the name of the game in this year's smaller but more intimate region which includes the five Forsyth County schools and Milton—a program still winless in league play. The new format has its benefits, especially considering how teams like West and North (7-4, 3-3) are still holding playoff position despite recent struggles thanks to the limited number of teams in the league (four of the six members will qualify for state).
But Rickett doesn't see it that way. He doesn't feel less pressure even with what appears to be a game of musical chairs with too many chairs.
“I think this region is much tougher than it was last year, because there's no gimmies,” Rickett said. “You've got to be mentally tough and you've got to learn to keep putting the last performance behind you and get up to play a big game over and over. In this community you can throw out records, what you did last week. It's all about taking it one night at a time.”
Instead, he's hoping his team is continuing to learn it can compete against the talent in the region night in and night out now that each county team is slated to face off three times instead of two. Before the season North was considered a darkhorse to unseat South Forsyth from its perch, but the Lady Raiders are in a skid of their own—still holding the No. 3 seed—and looking for answers.
“We're just not getting that bit hit we need right now,” North head coach Bud Henderson said. “We threatened early, but we need that swing that brings home a run, gives us some momentum and confidence. Right now they're not stringing together and when that happens you feel like you're in quicksand.”
North had five base runners in the first two frames Tuesday night thanks to four early errors from the Lady Wolverines, but struggled to string together runs. They took the early 1-0 lead when Amber Jones scored Addie Harris in the top of the third, but West bounced back when Martin came home off a Behan single in the bottom of the inning. Hardy's fourth-inning home run gave West the lead, and starting pitcher Hannah Guthrie (7IP, 7Hs, 7Ks, 3BBs) kept her composure just enough to allow the floodgates to open in the sixth.
As of Tuesday night each team in the county had faced off once, with Lambert leading the region at 6-0 and South just behind at 5-1. West's win over North kept it a game ahead of Forsyth Central, another region newcomer, and two games ahead of winless Milton.