Forney proves up to the challenge

Earlier loss is wake-up call, leads to win over defending state champ

AUSTIN — This was the softball team Forney coach Eric Montgomery didn’t see in a rough loss to Waco Midway in April. This was the team he challenged his girls to become after that brutal day.

Forney defeated defending state champion Waco Midway, 9-6, in Friday’s Class 4A semifinal at Red & Charline McCombs Field.

The preparation for this stage began before the playoffs. Forney (37-7) and Waco Midway had agreed to a late-season game, and Forney made the trip south.

The game had been moved up early, to noon. The team felt rushed.

Montgomery recalls looking at the faces on the field and around the dugout and telling his assistants the players didn’t seem into it. They lost, 9-2.

“I pulled them aside and said, ‘Listen, this needs to be a wake-up call,’” Montgomery said.

He persuaded them to realize the effort necessary for defeating top competition. It would take maximum output.

Playoff victories against top teams such as Frisco Wakeland and Frisco Centennial illustrate how the players’ attitudes changed. They got the message. But could they beat Midway?

All this week, they prepared for Midway pitcher Katie Neal — who throws slower-than-average pitchers — by waiting longer to start their swings. By the second inning Friday, they figured her out.

Forney scored seven runs — six with two outs — on doubles by Krista Williams, Brooke McCarroll and Taylor LeFlore, along with walks or singles from Hillary Steed, Macie Tillery and Rylie Chappell.

“We were just seeing it,” Tillery said, “and doing it.”

Forney led, 9-0, before Midway mounted a comeback in the fifth and sixth. Left fielder Micah Fitzgerald helped stop the sixth-inning rally with her second diving catch of the game.

“Saving us,” Montgomery said. “Absolutely saving us.”

It was the brand of gritty play Montgomery told his team it needed to make against the best, and now Forney will play in the title game for the opportunity to prove it is the best.

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