The Forney softball team got back to making news on the field Thursday after tragedy struck the team Tuesday when freshman outfielder Emily Galiano was struck by a teammate’s Jeep and killed leaving a team function that night.
Though the softball game ended in a 1-0 loss against Mansfield Lake Ridge (24-6), returning to the field after postponing a game that was originally scheduled for Wednesday, visibly brought the Jackrabbits a dose of much-needed joy at a time of loss.
The dugout was loud, and so were those in the Forney cheering section, a large contingent of whom donned T-shirts featuring a neon softball adorned with angel wings and emblazoned with the number 6, which was Galiano’s jersey number. Above the softball was a neon halo above the softball.
Lake Ridge players gave their Forney counterparts yellow roses as their names were called during pregame introductions.
For most of the game, it looked as if Forney (33-4) would break through first in the pitchers’ duel between the Jackrabbits’ Savanna DesRocheres and the Eagles’ Kalyssa Gonzales.
Neither team had a hit through three innings.
But Forney chipped away first at Gonzales’ armor in the pitching circle. Second baseman Kamryn Wells knocked the game’s first hit into left field to start the fourth, and Jackrabbits left fielder Caroline Tedder pointed up to the sky when her sharply hit ball landed in left field in the fifth.
Every time, however, the Lake Ridge defense held on behind Gonzales, who pitched to contact more than DesRocheres did for Forney.
DesRocheres had just recorded her eighth strikeout to start the sixth, and was still holding onto a no-hitter, when Lake Ridge catcher Emily Olguin slapped a ball along the third-base line for the Eagles’ first hit.
When first baseman Kate Tovar struck out for the second out, it looked as though Forney would escape, even as Olguin had advanced to third along the way. But with a full count and two outs, left fielder Kylah Marzette delivered Lake Ridge’s purest hit of the night, a looper into shallow left-center to bring home the only run of the game.
“[Forney] played outstanding,” Lake Ridge coach Cindy Manley said. “They outhit us in the beginning. Both teams were getting after it. You could see somebody getting frustrated for two seconds, then they got right back in it, on both teams.”
After the game, the teams joined hands around the pitching circle and Manley briefly addressed the players. The group bowed their heads, then exchanged hugs. Spectators cheered at the sight.
No matter the outcome, playing the game was what Galiano would have wanted her teammates to do, Forney coach Pat Eitel told WFAA/Channel 8 on Wednesday. Earlier in the season, Galiano scored a game-winning walk-off double against Royce City.
Some Forney fans displayed homemade signs that read “We love you #6.”
Game 2 of the best-of-three Class 5A regional semifinal series is Friday at Rockwall High School.
All concession proceeds from Game 1 will be donated by Kennedale High School to the Galiano family, as will the concession proceeds from Thursday’s game at Colleyville Heritage, between Mansfield Legacy and The Colony.
Matthew Martinez: 817-390-7667; @MCTinez817