EAST BEND — For Forbush Falcons softball, the motto all year has been, “One Team; One Goal.” Forbush is two wins away from reaching that goal — winning the 2A softball state championship.
The Falcons continue the chase for a state title tonight when they take on South Granville in Game 1 of the best-of-three championship series at Dail Softball Stadium on the campus of N.C. State University.
“From day one, we set out a goal, and every day we break it down, ‘our goal is to win a state championship,’” Forbush coach Jeremy Helton said. “That means everybody pulling in the same direction, everybody fighting through adversity together, and we’ve said ‘one team, one goal’ at the end of every practice and every game and everybody on this team has bought into that.”
This year, Forbush has faced adversity in must-win situations in the playoffs. Facing elimination down 2-0 late against West Lincoln, the girls battled back to tie the game in the seventh before winning in extra innings to advance to the Western Regional Final against Franklin.
“We were down and we knew we had to come back,” junior Taylor Wooten said. “We all had to come together and support each other, because last year we were really upset that we lost in regionals.”
Defeating Franklin in the regional finals was no easy task. Down 2-1 entering the sixth inning, Forbush battled back with for its second straight comeback win. Forbush went on to win game two at Franklin to advance to the state championship. Starting pitcher junior Sydney Miller said the comeback wins have to do with the team’s willingness to dig deep.
“Sometimes we get down, but we pick each other up,” Miller said. “In between innings when we have our huddles we have to motivate each other and keep working through it.”
It’s been 11 years since Forbush won the state championship, and Miller recalled being on the stands watching the 2004 championship team celebrate. She said seeing them hoist the trophy at the end of the year is something that she’s wanted to do for a long time.
“Ever since I was little, I’d been wanting to make a difference on the softball field just like those girls did,” Miller said. “It would mean so much to bring back one of those banners.”
Forbush isn’t the only team in the region with a rich tradition. In the past 16 years, 11 of the state championship softball teams at the 1A and 2A level have come from the Northwest or Mountain Valley Conference. East Surry has won six 1A softball state titles — including a streak of four in a row. Forbush had a run of three straight state championships. West Wilkes captured the 1A crown two years ago and North Stokes won it all in 2014.
Battling against Forbush for the state championship banner stands Eastern Regional Champion South Granville. Although the team from Creedmoor is closer to N.C. State University in Raleigh, where the game will be played, coach Helton has no doubt that the fans will travel in high numbers for a chance to watch history.
“We’ve had the community rally around us all year, and I know they’re going to continue to do that. It’s going to be a great atmosphere. Even when we played at Franklin, we had so many supportive fans that it made it feel like a home game,” Helton said.
One big spark for the Falcons has come from junior Logan Wood. Her solo home run against West Lincoln changed the momentum for a must-win game, and powered them to the Western regional finals. Against Franklin, Wood continued her hot streak, hitting a grand slam in game two with six RBIs.
“Once we spark and get a hit, then everybody gets a hit behind us when we’re really on,” Wood said.
“She’s a game changer,” Helton said. “She’s stepped up in big situations as have other girls. Savannah Yale came in the bottom of the seventh and hit a leadoff double [against West Lincoln], and then Sydney Miller came up with the game winning hit in the eighth after senior Mallory Choplin led off with a single up the middle. That’s two seniors and a junior who stepped up and made a statement.”
Forbush went undefeated in the WPC this season and has won 22 in a row. This is the 14th time Forbush has made it to the finals, including slow-pitch, and coach Helton said he wants his team to be on the sign in front of the field that recognizes champions.
“It would mean so much to get that back here… when you look at that sign there’s a lot of tradition, and it would mean a lot to be a part of that,” Helton said.
Game one will be at 6 p.m. Game two will be Saturday at 11 a.m, with game three (if necessary) later in the day at 5 p.m.