Inside the home dugout of the Evans High School softball field is a quote from Kay Yow, the late North Carolina State women's basketball coach, who died in January after battling breast cancer.
"When life kicks you, let it kick you forward," Yow was known to say.
"We put that up there, and I didn't really mean for it to happen," Evans softball coach Colette Cassedy said.
The Knights displayed the words back when players on the team were experiencing various problems. But it has especially helped Evans deal the past couple weeks without its top player, pitcher Jenny Shepherd. Shepherd underwent knee surgery at the beginning of September and has missed a key stretch of the Knights region schedule, which ends Tuesday at Hephzibah.
The Knights haven't dropped a region game in Shepherd's absence, beating Harlem 2-1 Tuesday to remain undefeated. Evans will likely hold the top seed for Region 3-AAAA when its tournament starts Saturday at Patriots Park.
Cassedy isn't sure when or if Shepherd will return. The senior's absence has given Cassedy the chance to see what her team will look like next season.
"I hate it, and I wish we had Jenny," Cassedy said. "But it's a good way to set the next year ... to kind of see what they can do and get them exposed to it and what its about a little bit."
Sophomore Brooke Sarver and freshman Lexi Dodgen have taken on the Knights' pitching duties. Sarver struck out nine Harlem batters last week and held the Bulldogs scoreless through five innings.
The young pitcher said she wasn't thinking about much else beyond getting strikeouts.
"I didn't really have any emotions," Sarver said.
The Bulldogs proved to be the Knights' biggest region test. Evans pushed across a run in the first and maintained the cushion into the fifth inning.
Controversy swirled in the fifth when Evans added an insurance run after a Knights runner was sent home after a defensive interference call. Evans freshman Savanna Gladue bumped a Harlem player while rounding third after a teammate's base hit. Gladue went halfway down the line toward home before returning to third as the throw came in from the outfield.
The umpire ruled Gladue would have scored if not for the contact and awarded Evans the run.
Harlem scored in the top of the sixth to make the call a talking point. But Sarver retired the Bulldogs' final six batters to end the game.
"They've built confidence, and they feel like they can do it," Cassedy said. "It's not about one player. And we've been winning."
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