It almost looked like West Forsyth’s softball team had grown up in an instant.
On Monday night, the Wolverines went toe-to-toe with Forsyth Central in the first day of the Region 5-7A tournament, playing solid defense and making the offensive plays necessary to come to within just one out of an upset. The Bulldogs tied the game in the seventh, though, and ultimately, the Wolverines took the disappointing loss.
West’s hopes of a state playoff berth didn’t end with that loss, though, and entering Tuesday, the Wolverines still had a chance to achieve that against Milton. Unfortunately, some of the problems that have plagued the young Wolverines all reason resurfaced again, as West took a mercy rule shortened 11-3 loss to end their 2019 season.
“It just didn't go the way we wanted it to,” West Forsyth head coach Justin Rickett said. “We still played hard (and) have a lot to look forward to in the future. We've just got to keep working. It is what it is. It's never the way you want it to end, but there's only one way to win the last game you play.”
West was able to get leadoff hitter Grace Mangan to third in the first inning but were unable to bring her in, and in the bottom half of the frame, Milton scored two on an RBI single and a fielder’s choice after a West error to take their first lead.
The Wolverines put together their most productive inning of the afternoon in the second, with Mangan hitting an RBI single to score Rylee Ramirez. West then took advantage of the Eagles’ only real mistake of the game when Lillian Seitz scored on an errant throw into left after being caught in a rundown between third and home.
West had narrowed the score to 3-2 by the start of the third, but Milton quickly got those runs back in that inning with an RBI groundout and a single. West crossed the plate for the final time in the fourth on a Seitz groundout that scored Ramirez.
Four singles and another West error extended Milton’s lead to 9-3 after four, and in the fifth, the Eagles put the run rule into effect with two more RBI hits.
Maria Luce allowed eight runs over three innings and took the loss. Ryley Kutter struck out two over her 1 2/3 innings of work.
The 2019 season was a rough one for West, which finished 5-20-1 overall. Rickett saw his team grow over the course of the year, though, and he’s hopeful that his young group can continue to make strides.
“It's an adjustment period,” Rickett said. “You've got to continue to work and continue to get better. That's the only way to put it.
“I think we're athletic. I think our kids are willing to work hard and that's going to be what the determining factor in how successful this group is -- how much we're willing to work and improve from this year. We'll get a chance next year.”