North softball plays Forbush tough but falls in first round

By John Cate -

EAST BEND — Despite a loss that dropped North Surry’s softball team to the No. 4 spot in the Western Piedmont Athletic Conference for postseason play, the Lady Hounds still managed to sneak into the 2A state playoffs as the 26th seed out of 32 teams in the West Regional.

Unfortunately, their “reward” was something along the lines of chewing tacks, and a task that the Lady Hounds were already familiar with. They had to play at league rival and WPAC champion Forbush in Tuesday’s opening round, and the Lady Falcons had only lost twice at home all season, both to highly-ranked teams that play in different classifications, back in early March.

That didn’t stop the Lady Hounds from giving it a good go, however. North Surry had the potential trying run on base in the top of the fifth inning, but Forbush came on strong late in the game and held off the visitors for a 5-3 victory that sent them to Friday’s second round.

The Lady Hounds (13-13), who had lost 7-3 and 14-9 to Forbush during two regular-season meetings, sweated out Monday’s playoff selections after losing a game to Surry Central for the No. 3 playoff seed over the weekend. However, North’s 13 wins and solid MaxPreps power rating put the team into the field with some room to spare. Facing Forbush on the road was less than ideal, but at least the Lady Hounds knew their opponent well.

In fact, North Surry probably should have taken an early lead. In the top of the first inning, Evann Shelnutt led off the game with a single off Lady Falcon pitcher Caiti Mickles. Shelnutt advanced to second base on a sacrifice, and then Makara Woodbury walked to put two runners on. However, Mickles buckled down and got the next two North batters on a fielder’s choice and a flyout to get out of trouble.

Mia Simmons, pitching for the Lady Hounds, allowed two hits with two out in the Forbush half of the first, but fanned the next hitter for the third out. North Surry again got a runner into scoring position in the second, when Abby Draughn hit a two-out double, but she was stranded as well.

Forbush (21-6) finally took the lead in its half of the second. Alexis Collins led off with a single, and scored on a two-out double by Nevaeh Hemric.

Ellie McHone replaced Simmons as the Lady Hound pitcher to begin the third, and Forbush came on strong as Kayleigh Williams singled, Mickles walked and Macey Rycroft singled to load the bases with no one out. McHone got the next batter to hit an apparent groundout, but the ball was booted and two runs scored. North Surry head coach Willie Hodges called on senior Drew Beamer to try to stop the bleeding.

Beamer delivered, getting a popup, a fielder’s choice and a strikeout in quick succession to keep the Lady Hounds in the game, down 3-0.

Forbush uncharacteristically started booting the ball around in the top of of the fourth, and North Surry capitalized.

With one out, Karlie Marion, Simmons and Draughn all reached base on three successive miscues by the Lady Falcon defense. The last of the three allowed Marion to score and put Simmons and Draughn both into scoring position. McHone drove in Simmons with a groundout and it was 3-2. Shelnutt came up with a chance to give the Lady Hounds the lead with a hit, but Mickles got her to ground out.

A two-out error in the Forbush half of the fourth allowed Sommer Gray to reach. Mickles helped herself with an RBI double that made it 4-2.

Woodbury doubled with one out in the North half of the fifth, and Makayla Brickell came in to run for her. Beamer followed with a double of her own and it was 4-3 as Brickell scored. Olivia Jones followed by reaching on an error, and the Lady Hounds had runners on first and third with one down. However, Mickles answered the bell again, getting Marion and Simmons to pop up and leaving her team in front by a run.

North’s failure to fully capitalize on this chance turned out to be its undoing. The Lady Falcons added another unearned run in the bottom half of the fifth, extending their lead to 5-3. Come the top of the sixth, the Lady Hounds were out of bullets. They went down in order in each of the final two innings of the game, with Mickles striking out the side in the seventh.

It was the final game in the North Surry careers of Beamer, who will go on to play at Surry next season, along with Madison Bowman, Marion and Cora Stanley. Beamer and Woodbury each had two hits, with Shelnutt and Draughn collecting one each. Beamer pitched four innings without allowing an earned run in her final appearance on the mound for North.

By John Cate