BRIDGEWATER — As Makayla Cyzick stared toward home plate and into the eyes of Carley Davis, she shook her head a few times before finally nodding in agreement.
The Turner Ashby pitcher-catcher duo of Cyzick and Davis has always been strong, but in their final season together before heading off to play Division I softball in the fall, the connection between the two is what has made the difference for a Knights team preparing to play in the Virginia High School League Class 3 semifinals this week.
“A lot of my success has come from her being my catcher this year,” Cyzick said. “It’s really noticeable. A lot of people can tell how close Carley and I are when we are on the field together. Even outside of softball, we’re best friends. It’s just really helped growing up together, playing these past few years together. It’s all really worked out for us this year.”
The two, along with fellow senior Ashton Richmond, have played softball together since they were 7-years old and Davis said her first-ever travel ball team was with Cyzick.
As they prepare for Thursday’s VHSL Class 3 semifinal against Skyline at 9 a.m. at the Moyer Complex in Salem, Richmond said watching the growth of her two teammates and friends over the years has been special to witness.
“It’s not all about softball,” Richmond said. “It’s about being a good person, too. I really enjoy watching them and knowing them. I’ve enjoyed watching their growth over the years.”
Davis, an Elon signee, said the longevity of her friendship with Cyzick not only built a chemistry when playing, but also created an unspoken trust between the two.
In the Knights’ 3-0 win over Cave Spring in the VHSL Class 3 quarterfinals, assistant Eddie Bowman said there was a moment where Turner Ashby coach Clint Curry was about to make a trip to talk with Cyzick in the circle, but opted to wait.
Instead, Davis walked out to the circle one pitch later, talked with Cyzick while gathering the infield around her and the Knights got an inning-ending out in the next at-bat.
“Carley took control of it and gathered the whole infield in,” Curry said. “She brings them together, talks to them. She just keeps them calm, keeps them relaxed. She gets Makayla refocused. We’re blessed as coaches to have kids like that.”
Curry praised Davis’ knowledge of the game and ability to adapt to different situations on the fly and talked about the importance of her sharing what she is seeing on the field with the coaches each time she comes into the dugout.
As for Cyzick, who is headed to Winthrop in the fall, he said she took a new approach to the game this year and it’s paid off with the most successful season of her high school career.
“She’s got that bulldog mentality this year,” Curry said. “From where she was last year to this year, she has taken it to the next level. She’s pretty much said, ‘You know what, ladies? Climb on my back and here we go. We’re going for a ride.’ That’s the way she approaches every game. We can’t say enough good things about our kids.”
Cyzick has started every game for the Knights, pitching 157 innings while giving up just 15 earned runs on 75 hits and 28 walks and striking out 253 batters. She boasts an ERA of 0.66 for the season.
At the plate, Davis is hitting a team-best .557 with five homers and 30 RBIs while Cyzick has also been a strong contributor with a .468 batting average, six home runs and a team-high 36 RBIs.
“She can really recognize the pitches,” Cyzick said of Davis. “She knows what she’s getting, knows how to hit it. You throw a changeup at her and she knows how to hit a changeup. She’s just a hitter that’s going to adjust and do what it takes to get on [base].”
Davis calls the pitches every game for Cyzick and it’s worked all season for the Knights.
The two senior captains said they had to build a trust with each other in order to do so successfully and as they enter the final week of their season, they are happy with how well it all paid off.
“I just think since we’ve been together so long and she trusts in me so much to call her pitches and really control the game, she gives me that trust and I give it right back to her,” Davis said.
If Turner Ashby gets a win Thursday, it will turn around and play in the VHSL Class 3 state championship game on Friday. A win would give the Knights their first state title since 2004.
While Davis and Cyzick said they’re taking it one game at a time and not looking too far ahead, they also couldn’t deny how special that moment would be if the last look toward home plate was during a celebration taking place in Salem.
“We know we only get to put the Knights jersey on two more times,” Cyzick said. “We’re going to go out there and give it our all. It means everything that we get to get another game to put it on. We get another chance.
“To be in the final four means everything because we’re getting to play together again. I’ll never get to experience this again. That’s why it means a lot.”