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Making third straight appearance in District final, Sparta manages just three hits

SPARTA'S ADDISON TAYLOR makes a late tag at third base.
SPARTA'S ADDISON TAYLOR makes a late tag at third base.

FORSYTH — Entering Tuesday’s Class 2 District 5 final, Sparta center fielder Mya Fulton had to go back two years for her last memory of facing Forsyth pitcher Lindsey Essary.

In between Fulton’s game-winning, two-run single single to beat Essary and the Lady Panthers at Districts in 2022 and Tuesday, Sparta and Forsyth had faced each other five times covering last season and this spring.

The Lady Trojans saw Essary pitch against them only one inning over that span.

Sparta saw too much of Essary this time around, as the Lady Trojans bowed to Forysth 8-0.

"I definitely think that (worked) a lot in their favor,” Fulton said of Sparta hitters mostly seeing other Forsyth pitchers. “Playing them three times this season, they saw (Sparta pitcher Addie Humble) all three times, while we saw an inning of Lindsey.”

The Lady Trojans (18-8) managed just three hits. Singles by Fulton, third baseman Addison Taylor and shortstop Averi Leyland were spaced apart. 

Sparta den’t have more than one baserunner in an inning until the seventh.

In the Lady Trojans’ first-round and semifinal wins, they totaled 18 runs.

"I think we got a little tight,” coach Jamie Holmes said. “We put a little more pressure on ourselves. We tensed up and didn’t attack the ball like we have been the last couple of games.

“We seemed loose (before the game,” she added. “ But once the game started we got a little tight. We didn't play as free as we have been.”

Essary struck out just two. But Sparta hitters didn’t put many good swings of the ball against her. Essary repeatedly started counts by hitting the outside corner, setting her up for success.

“She worked out and came in,” Fulton said. “A lot of (pitches were) outside and then late in the count, if she was up on you, she would throw you inside or a changeup.”

Humble kept Forsyth scoreless until a Sparta two-out, two-run error in the third inning. Forsyth added added two more runs in the fourth, three in the fifth and one in the sixth. Essary hit a two-run homer in the fifth.

Humble walked three.

“She's been pitching with a lot of confidence,” Holmes said. “That’s what I told her I needed today, to give me her all and to let her let the defense work.”

This was Sparta’s third appearance in a District championship game in as many years.

“We're proud of ourselves,” Fulton said. “It meant a lot to us to be able to make it here, after losing an all-state pitcher (2023 grad Natalie Wilks). All of us were doubted at the beginning of the season. It felt good to be back in the championship game as the sixth seed.

“(The seniors) are all like my best friends,” she added. “It's meant a lot to play with those girls and go out with them, as well.”

“It's been incredible,” Holmes said of her first season at Sparta. “I just told the girls that at the first practice of the year, I knew they were going to do great things. My job was to get them to know they were capable of it. 

“They've had incredible careers and nothing to hold their heads about,” she said of her seniors. “Coming into their senior year and having a new coach, that's not easy. They embraced it and enjoyed each other. That's what it’s all about.”