Written by Matt Wixon
Wixon: This time, a big inning crushes Forney's state hopes
AUSTIN — In the fifth inning of Saturday’s Class 4A state championship game, Santa Fe hitters sprayed singles across McCombs Field. They hit to left field, right field and up the middle as Forney fielders watched the rally build.
“I thought, ‘This is how Midway must’ve felt yesterday when we kind of did the same thing,’” Forney softball coach Eric Montgomery said.
On Friday, a big inning fueled Forney’s win over Waco Midway. But a day later, a seven-run inning was the crusher in Forney’s 10-3 loss.
“When you face a team that puts 13 hits up on the board,” Montgomery said, “it’s tough to win.”
Seven of those hits came in the bottom of the fifth, which started with a Santa Fe groundout. Then came a single to left, a single to right and a blooper that floated over second baseman Taylor Penn’s head. With the bases loaded, Ciara Sunseri smashed a double to the gap in left that cleared the bases.
That gave Santa Fe a 4-1 lead, but it wasn’t done yet. Santa Fe (37-6) got three more hits before Forney got the second out, and by the end of the inning, Santa Fe had scored seven to turn a tie into an 8-1 lead.
“That’s just the nature of the game. You get those little rallies and everybody starts feeling it,” Montgomery said. “It’s kind of like a disease. Everybody kind of catches it and keeps rolling with it.”
Forney (37-8), which had won its first 10 playoff games, still had two innings to rally. And with a lineup that in recent weeks knocked out three state-ranked teams, Frisco Wakeland, Frisco Centennial and Midway, Forney had reason for hope.
With the fresh memory of scoring seven runs in an inning Friday, Forney began another rally Saturday. With one out in the sixth, Jasmine Lusk walked and Taylor LeFlore, who homered in the first to give Forney a 1-0 lead, singled to left. Hillary Steed singled to load the bases, and Krista Williams’ flyout to center scored a run. Brooke McCarroll followed with an RBI single to right to cut the lead to 8-3.
But the rally ended when Steed was thrown out trying to reach third on McCarroll’s single. Maybe Forney was too aggressive on the play, but it needed to make something happen against a team that was pounding the ball.
Forney ace Macie Tillery allowed nine hits and eight runs in 42/3 rough innings in temperatures near 100 degrees. The senior, who usually works the corners of the plate well, allowed just one hit in the first three innings before Santa Fe got rolling.
Whether Tillery was missing the corners or the umpire had a tight strike zone, it wasn’t clear. But the results were clear.
“She’s not a speed-ball pitcher, she’s a placement pitcher,” Montgomery said of Tillery. “And when we couldn’t get the corners working, all of the sudden it became batting practice.”