FORSYTH — Sparta’s McKenzie Wilson, Natalie Wilks and Megan Brown all took a quick liking to golf last fall, with the latter two qualifying for State and Wilks finishing 12th at State.
“I think golf is probably my favorite sport,” said Wilks, who quickly re-considered. “It’s close to softball.”
Problem was, they eventually found their golf swing and softball swing were much too closely associated with each other.“I played a travel ball tournament during golf season and probably struck out six times and had lots of pop flies,” Wilks said.
Wilson struck out in five of her first nine at-bats this spring and was 5-for-25 a couple weeks into the season.
“I had to find my swing again,” Wilson said.
The left-handed hitting first baseman re-discovered her swing in April, eventually leading to her game-winning solo home run in Sparta’s 3-2 victory versus Forsyth in the Class 2 District 6 championship game Tuesday.
Wilson blasted a solo shot with two outs in the sixth inning to break a 2-all tie.
As Sparta (26-4) prepares for a Quarterfinal matchup against Mt. Vernon next week, Wilson’s stats line shows a .407 batting average with five homers and 40 RBIs.
If not for her foray on the fairways, perhaps she would be making a run at .500, instead of .400. She’s 30-for-61 since that 5-for-25 start.
“This was my first year playing golf. (Wilks and Brown) came back from golf a lot better than I did,” Wilson said. “(People) told me to play golf right-handed. I should have done that.”
Wilks and Brown look forward to playing golf well beyond their upcoming college softball and volleyball careers. Their favorite track is Republic’s Island Green Golf Course. But they surely aren’t tempted to pull out their clubs and irons until after Sparta’s post-season run.
“I haven't golfed since (last fall),” Wilks said.
The timing of Wilson’s homer couldn’t have been better. She hit the first pitch she saw from Forsyth pitcher Kloe Hendrickson, after Hendrickson had retired both Brown and Wilks.
“Me and Megan got up and we both got out and we were thinking, ‘Oh my gosh,’” Wilks said. “But then Kenzie hit a nuke and it was all good.”
Wilks figured it was only human nature if Hendrickson let up after retiring her and Brown. Wilks and Brown both entered the contest hitting .500-plus.
“(Hendrickson) got me and Megan out, our two hitters who normally hit, and she already had gotten Kenzie out twice (earlier in the game, so why not throw her a meat ball. That was a bad idea,” Wilks said.
Sparta scored a run in the first on a groundout by Wilson that plated Mya Fulton who had walked. The Lady Trojans added a run in the fourth on an RBI-triple but Averi Leyland.
Wilson’s homer was obviously the play of the game for Sparta in its first District championship performance. A diving catch by center fielder Mya Fulton ranks runner-up on the Lady Trojans’ highlights reel.
With the teams tied at 2, the Lady Panthers put together back-to-back singles with one out and their best hitter, Emmy Blevins, stepped into the batter’s box. She lined a sinking liner to center that Fulton caught in front of her as she hit the turf.
“Their first hit (of the game) split between me and (right-fielder Layne Forgey) and I thought I could have got there if I had laid out,” Fulton said. “Everyone was saying, 'Bodies on the ground, don't let anything hit the ground.' So, I was thinking to myself, 'Lay everything out and surely if I miss it, Layne will be there to back me up.' I knew if I made a big catch it could potentially change the game.
“It was a big momentum-turner,” she added. “We were getting a little down on ourselves. We weren't hitting the best tonight. After that, everyone was pumped up and cheering each other on.”
"She had a great jump, great read and it was a great play,” coach Troy McPherson said. “To be able to make a play like that, it shows how much she cares.”
Fulton was thankful to land on turf.
“I dove at home a couple times this year and it's not nearly as comfortable as it is on turf,” she said. “I feel a whole lot more comfortable laying myself out on this field than I do on grass.”
Forsyth brings out the best in Fulton. A year in a District semifinal against the Lady Panthers, she delivered a two-run, seventh-inning single in a 6-5 Sparta triumph.
“I felt good about facing them again,” Fulton said. “They’re a tough team. We knew we had to play our best or else they could beat us.”
Wilks retired Forsyth 1-2-3 in the seventh, wrapping up Sparta’s first District championship. The senior pitcher yielded six hits and one walk while striking out five.