Forney in finals after beating defending champ

AUSTIN, Texas -- Forney softball believes it hasn’t recieved the credit it deserves, flying under the radar to the state tournament this season.

The best way to grab some attention –- beating the defending state champ Waco Midway, 9-6, in the Class 4A state semifinal Friday.

Catcher-turned-starter Macie Tillery provided a punch on both sides of the ball, allowing Midway just three earned runs on 10 hits in her seven innings of pitching and homered in the top of the third.

“We don’t get any recognition,” Tillery said. “We like to fly under the radar and it makes us feel like the underdogs and it feels really good to win.”

That chip that Forney has carried through a difficult playoff run, knocking off Frisco Wakeland and Frisco Centennial, was the first thing discussed among the players after Forney’s state semifinal win, Tillery said.

"We have been underrated most the year compared to most the teams we end up playing. Up in Dallas -- I think everyone was talking about Frisco Wakeland and Frisco Centinnial beating us and we came out and played well."

Forney began the game where they left off in the regional semis and finals, with hot bats. They drove in all the runs it would need in the second, scoring eight on four hits -- three of which were doubles.

Forney coach Eric Montgomery said his team had worked on staying back on Midway starting pitcher Katie Neal's slower paced fastball, which finally kicked in after the lineup had batted around in the second inning.

Tillery added Forney's final run of the game in the third, crushing a homer well over the left-field fence. The long ball was well received by the hitter, who had been in an 0-for-7 slump through Forney's regional final series.

Tillery gave all the credit for the homer to her teammate Taylor Penn, who filled her in on Midway relief pitcher Callee Guffey's tendancy to pound the inside of the plate.

"She told me [Guffey] was going to jam me and she knows inside isn't my best," Tillery said. "She told me to back off a little bit and she gave me one right on the plate and I just took it."

Midway gave Forney a scare in the fifth and sixth innings, scoring four and two runs respectively, but Tillery sat Midway down in order in the seventh to send Forney to the state finals to face Santa Fe Saturday at 5 p.m.

Forney left fielder Micah Fitzgerald was a huge factor in holding any Midway rally at bay, reeling in two diving catches that kept Midway from scoring.

The win against Midway was especially sweet as a means for revenge for a preseason blowout Midway inflicted on Forney.

"Maybe people will recognize us a little bit," Tillery said behind a coy smile, that speaks volumes. The recognition Forney really desires is the respect that comes from hoisting a state championship trophy in the air.