When Wake Forest senior first baseman Katy Holt blasted a two-run home run in the fifth inning of Friday’s NCHSAA softball second round playoff game to give her team a three-run lead, it looked like Fuquay-Varina’s season was nearing an end.
The Bengals had other plans.
With its back against the wall, Fuquay-Varina rallied late and won 7-5 in extra innings on the road against a Wake Forest team that had lost just once all season before Friday night.
Fuquay-Varina, which finished third in the SWAC this season, now advances to the third round of the playoffs and will face either Laney or South Central on Tuesday as the result of some late-game heroics from several players on Friday.
Tied 5-5 in the top of the eighth inning, the Bengals took a two-run lead thanks to an RBI triple by senior third baseman Logan Bowling and an RBI single by junior pitcher Kaitlain Smith.
Wake Forest, the Cap-8 Conference champions, was unable to respond as its season ended earlier than many expected at the hands of a upset-minded Fuquay-Varina team.
“We talk about playing all seven (innings) all the time,” Fuquay-Varina coach Deborah Clarke said. “Even when we’re down, we’re like ‘play all seven, play all seven.’ This time, it took eight, but I couldn’t be more proud of them.”
Trailing 5-3 entering the bottom of the seventh inning and on the verge of being eliminated, Fuquay-Varina got a huge boost from senior Aleyah Evans as she blasted a two-run home run to tie the game.
Evans, who batted 3-5 at the plate, was aware of what she had to do late in the game and she came through for her team.
“I knew what position I was in,” Evans said. “I knew I had runners on and I knew what I needed to do and I just delivered,” Evans said.
The clutch hit was only a part of an impressive performance by Evans. The centerfielder robbed Wake Forest of a run-scoring opportunity by making an improbable bobbling catch earlier in the game.
Through the first four innings, both teams struggled to break out offensively as Wake Forest held a 3-2 lead.
However, the home team padded its lead when Holt’s two-run home run put the Cougars up by three runs and Wake Forest appeared to be on its way to a win.
But Fuquay-Varina wouldn’t go away. Smith, who pitched 5 2/3 innings in relief, was able to contain Wake Forest while her teammates’ bats came alive late in the contest.
“We knew they could hit and they hit the ball,” Wake Forest coach Brittany Owens said. “I can’t take anything away from them. They hit the ball and they played great defense.”
For Wake Forest, a team which had such big aspirations this postseason, it was tough to see the season come to a sudden end. Nonetheless, Owens is still happy with what her group accomplished this year.
“I told them I was proud of them,” Owens said. “We had a great season.”
Meanwhile, Fuquay-Varina still has much more to play for. The Bengals are thankful for that.
“Being a senior, it’s just an amazing feeling,” Evans said. “I knew we had it in us and I expected nothing less than us.”