EAST BEND — The Western Piedmont Athletic Conference softball championship game was a game that came down to good coaching, excellent bunting and fast running. On Friday night, the Forbush Falcons hosted West Stokes for the conference tournament championship game.
Over the duration of the regular season, these two teams have battled it out on the field. The Wildcats handed Forbush its only loss of the WPAC season and were looking for another win in the tournament. The Lady Falcons had other ideas.
The game came down to the eighth inning, and the Falcons were able to put down a suicide squeeze to score the winning run and take a 2-1 win over West Stokes.
“We played excellent, we really did play well in all phases,” said Forbush head coach Jeremy Helton on his team’s overall performance. “I knew it was going to come down to something big at the end because both pitchers threw really well and our defense was unbelievable. Our defense has been lights out and we backed our pitcher up really well.”
Things started off hot in the batter’s box for both teams. In the top of the first inning, the Wildcats put down a run to take a 1-0 lead over the Falcons. Forbush didn’t let the run phase it, as the Falcons came into the batter’s box in the bottom of the inning and tied the game, 1-1.
Kayleigh Williams started off the bottom of the inning with a fly ball single to left field. Sommer Gray was able to follow up Williams’ hit with one of her own to put runners on the corners. With one out on the board, Macy Rycroft stepped up and hit a sacrifice fly to center field to bring Williams in to score for the Falcons.
For the next few innings, both teams put down hits but neither was able to bring a run across the plate. In the top of the third inning, Williams made a diving catch at shortstop which had the crowd on its feet.
“There were key plays all over the field for us,” said Helton. “Davis Ann Wood had the over-the-shoulder catch, Kayleigh Williams diving on the infield and making the catch.”
As the game reached the seventh inning, tensions started to rise. West Stokes was able to load the bases and just as it looked like the Wildcats would score a run, a runner was called for offensive interference and the Falcons headed to the dugout.
“I knew we were going to face a good pitcher, and I knew we were going to have to do some big things to produce some runs here and there,” said Helton. “I knew it coming in, and that is what we practiced. We had a plan coming into the game and we executed it. Even though it might not show by the book or with how many hits we had, we worked and we worked hard on executing a plan and we did.”
Forbush wasn’t able to advance a runner on base in the bottom of the inning, and the game headed to the eighth inning. The Falcons put down the first out as Mickles picked up the ground ball and threw it to Gracen Davis at first base. The next out came as Davis Ann Wood made an impressive over-the-shoulder catch in left field. The final out put down by Forbush was courtesy of Williams, who scooped up the ball and threw out the runner at first.
In the bottom of the inning, things started off on the right foot for the Falcons. Sommer Gray put down a ground ball to third for a single. Mickles followed up Gray’s hit with a hit that advances Gray to third. With the winning run on third base, Rycroft stepped up to the plate for the Falcons. After receiving the sign from Helton, Rycroft put down a perfectly placed bunt that brought a speedy Gray across the plate for the winning run.
“The real play was the squeeze at the end, the suicide squeeze. It was something that we worked on and it was one of our challenges we had at the end of practice,” said Helton. “I made every one of them do it (in practice), and we did it tonight and it was a huge play. Getting people on base in front to be able to do that was the biggest thing. Getting the ball in play and putting pressure on them. Macy did a great job laying down the bunt for us, and Sommer on third scoring the run.”
The Falcons had successfully executed a risky play call to win the WPAC Tournament Championship.
“It’s the eighth inning and we are playing at home, I had a good bunter up to bat and good runner on third,” said Helton on his decision to call a suicide squeeze. “I wanted to end the game and I had a lot of confidence in my girls because they are a bunch of competitors and a bunch of fighters. They are winners, and it was a huge play.”
Next on the agenda for the Falcons is a berth in the North Carolina High School Athletic Association 2A Playoffs. Forbush (20-5, 11-1) will host North Surry (13-12, 8-4) at home on Wednesday night. Results were not available by press deadline.