Its title defense came up two wins short, but Forney has nothing to slump over about.
The Jackrabbits played in one of the wildest games against Angleton on Friday in the 5A state semifinals at McCombs Field that turned into an instant classic.
Starting pitcher Aaliyah Garcia hit the walk-off single to the warning track in center as the Wildcats out-lasted Forney 7-6 in 11 innings to advance to the state title game, 3 p.m. Saturday against Calallen.
Forney, which won its first softball title last year, finishes 36-4. The Jackrabbits dedicated the win to fallen teammate Emily Galiano, who was a freshman that died during the 2017 playoffs.
“I couldn’t be more proud of these kids,” Forney coach Pat Eitel said. “It wasn’t our day, but they battled and came back.”
After Hannah Holdbrook hit an infield single up the middle on the seventh pitch in the top of the eighth inning, Texas A&M commit Trinity Cannon launched a two-run bomb to deep left field.
Cannon knew it off the bat and Forney grabbed its first lead of the day at 6-4.
“She was throwing me outside early on,” Cannon said. “She threw me an inside pitch during my second at-bat so I knew she was going there again and she did. I felt Em the whole time and she was running with me around the bases.”
But Angleton (38-2) wasn’t out just yet when Angel Jasso picked up a one-out single and Danieca Coffey hit a ball past a diving Forney left fielder for the game-tying two-run inside the park home run in the bottom of the eighth.
“We found a way to tie it and Trinity had a huge hit,” Eitel said. “We couldn’t seal the deal, but we fought until the end. It’s a great bunch of kids. It just shows where we’re going. We wanted to come back here and win back-to-back and we were right there. It’s just a hard pill to swallow.”
Forney had only one hit through five innings, but still managed to score three times in the top of the sixth to tie it at 4. Caleigh Cross laid a bunt down the third base line and the throw went to the warning track in right field.
Cross scored to bring the game to 4-2. Cannon and Sadie Hewitt both reached on hit by pitches and a Savannah Hughes’ fly ball to right center dropped to plate two more.
“We wouldn’t be here without all the support and our teammates, and of course our families,” said Cross, who will continue her career at McNeese State. “We’ve been through a lot and they’ve been unbelievable helping us get through it.
“It was tough and really long, but we knew Em was watching us all the way.”
Angleton put the pressure on Forney in the bottom of the seventh.
The Wildcats got back-to-back singles to begin the inning before putting two on second and third with one out.
Garcia hit a hard grounder to Cross at short and her throw to home was just in time for the second out. The Wildcats loaded the bases with two outs after an intentional walk, but Teagan Whitley’s hard grounder went right to Hewitt at first, who stepped on the bag to end the threat.
The Jackrabbits took the early lead when Kansas commit Savanna DesRochers led off the second with a double down the right-field line. Charlie Hale came in to run for the starting pitcher and scored on an RBI sac-fly from Hughes.
But the lead didn’t last long as the Wildcats put up two in the bottom half to grab a 2-1 lead.
Haylie Savage hit a lead-off double and advanced to third on a grounder from Whitley. Savage scored when Forney committed an error trying to get her out at third on a fielder’s choice and Angleton went in front two batters later on an RBI single to right from Coffey.
“Not the result we wanted, but I’m not ashamed of this team,” Cannon said. “Proud of them all, especially our seniors. We’ll miss them, but hope we can come back next year.”
Garcia (29-2) allowed three earned runs on three hits and struck out 13 batters in the complete game. DesRochers (25-3) allowed three earned runs on 12 hits. Both pitchers combined to throw 318 pitches.
“I can’t say enough about Savanna,” Eitel said. “She pitched her butt off. What a gutsy kid.”