TIFTON — Finally. Tift County’s Lady Devils softball team defeated Forsyth Central Friday, 7-4, doing something that had not been done since year’s roster was still in elementary school.
Tift is 1-0 for 2022. The last time they started a season with a win was in 2015. Their next try will be for 2-0, something the squad hasn’t accomplished since 2013. They will get a shot at that mark on Tuesday, when they visit a Colquitt County team that is predicted to be one of the best in Class 7A. The next home game is set for Aug. 11 against Crisp County.
Friday was another late win for Tift, much in the same way as they triumphed over Cook in the scrimmage: Trailing early before exploding in the late innings.
Forsyth Central scored three unearned runs over the first three frames before the Lady Devils got back into it on a long home run to left field by Bailee Williams. Head coach Taylor Barber said that solid at-bats by Gracee Wood and Delaine Jewell — though they resulted in outs — in the same inning helped get them going.
The lead became Tift’s in the bottom of the 5th.
Breanna Hernandez and Angie Martinez reached on a hit-by-pitch and walk, respectively, and Ella Bruce doubled in Hernandez. Loralee Bennett immediately followed with a double of her own, scoring both runners making it a 4-3 Lady Devils advantage.
The Lady Bulldogs of Forsyth got one back in the 6th on an error, but the 4-4 tie was only momentary.
Jewell and Hernandez stood on base with one out in bottom of the 6th. Barber said Jewell had a good read to steal third (having stolen second), leaving an opportunity for Hernandez to steal second.
Martinez put a ball in play, which saw the Lady Bulldogs make a throwing error, scoring Jewell and leaving runners again at second and third.
Bruce picked up another RBI on a single and when Bennett hit a sac fly to left to score Martinez, Tift had all the runs they needed.
Forsyth hit back-to-back singles in the 7th, but pitcher Lily Robinson dug deep for a pair of groundouts to end the game.
The visitors scored twice in the first frame, Keeley O’Hara and Kylie McTier coming home on a wild pitch and error. Tift had a double by Bennett and a walk to Williams in the bottom half, but were unable to do further damage.
Emily Caron singled and scored on an error in the 3rd. With a runner at third and one out, Barber met with his infield. They immediately responded. Bennett snared a low liner at third and dove for the bag to double up the runner and escape danger.
That was not the only big defensive play for the game. In the 2nd, right fielder Abby Henderson backed up an overthrow to first base and her strong throw nailed the runner attempting to make third.