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Its a baseball postseason bash as 5 Forsyth teams make state playoffs

FORSYTH COUNTY — Back in the fall, South Forsyth baseball coach Russ Bayer was the first to dream of the scenario.

He analyzed the talent returning to each of the baseball teams at the county’s five public high schools, forecasted the competition they would face and came to an optimistic conclusion: They could all make the playoffs this season.

“It was something that we obviously thought would be unique,” Bayer said, “but we thought it was pretty feasible looking at our regions and as the county continues to grow.”

It came down to the very end of the regular season (and then some), but Bayer’s hope came to fruition.

All of the teams qualified for the Georgia High School Association playoffs that start Friday, a milestone feat not achieved since Lambert opened in 2009.

Each will play a best-of-three series in the first round. Forsyth Central, the top seed out of Region 7-AAAAA, hosts Salem. Lambert and West Forsyth, co-champions of Region 6-AAAAAA, host Milton and Etowah, respectively, while North Forsyth travels to Pope and South travels to Walton.

“For a small- to medium-sized county, it’s a great accomplishment,” said North Forsyth head coach Jim Cahill. “Baseball is growing in Forsyth County. It’s more and more competitive every year. At cuts for tryouts you see better and better players. It’s tougher and tougher to make decisions. It’s a good thing, something we should be proud of.”

Forsyth Central head coach Kevin McCollum agreed. “It’s exciting to see,” he said. “I wouldn’t be surprised if all of us do fairly well [in the playoffs].”

There have been previous moments of prominence for the county’s baseball teams. Central reached the Final Four in 1996. North lost in the state finals in 1997 only to win it the next season. South made the state championship series in 2008. Last season, Lambert won the Class AAAAAA title and finished ranked as the top team by two national publications.

“It’s not like Forsyth County is new on the map in baseball,” said West Forsyth head coach Mike Pruitt, who led Central from 1995-98 during a string of four straight playoff appearances.

Indeed, but it’s been rare for the county’s teams to be so successful at the same time. The last time every public high school team made the state playoffs in the same season was in 1998 when just Central, North and South existed.

This season’s success seems a byproduct of the county’s condition as a whole. Rapid population growth is creating a larger talent pool. Ample recreational opportunities are helping kids learn the game at younger ages. Elite schools are attracting quality coaches. Reputable travel teams are moving in to provide further instruction.

“It’s really kind of a perfect storm,” Bayer said. “It’s an environment that just breeds the game.”

Still, it’s difficult for a county to qualify all of its public school baseball teams, especially when it’s outnumbered in region play.

Central had to contend with a swath of teams spanning from north Fulton to Rome, but the Bulldogs won their first region title since 1997.

Lambert, North, South and West joined forces against north Fulton teams and Habersham Central to sweep all four playoff berths, but it came down to the last day of the regular season when a complicated tiebreaker system went in South’s favor over Johns Creek for the final spot.

Now, all five teams enter the playoffs ready to show what Forsyth can do.

“I expect us to show well,” Pruitt said. “We’ll just see what happens. I know that I’m rooting for every one of those guys.”

Playoff schedule

Here are the first-round locations and times for Forsyth County baseball teams playing in the Georgia High School Association state playoffs: 

South Forsyth at Walton

Game 1 – Friday, 4:30 p.m.

Game 2 – Friday, 7:30 p.m.

Game 3 – Saturday, 1 p.m. (if necessary) 

North Forsyth at Pope

Game 1 – Friday, 4:30 p.m.

Game 2 – Friday, 7:30 p.m.

Game 3 – Saturday, 11 a.m. (if necessary) 

Etowah at West Forsyth

Game 1 – Friday, 5 p.m.

Game 2 – Friday, 8 p.m.

Game 3 – Saturday, 1:30 p.m. (if necessary) 

Milton at Lambert

Game 1 – Friday, 5:30 p.m.

Game 2 – Friday, 8:30 p.m.

Game 3 – Saturday, 3 p.m. (if necessary) 

Salem at Forsyth Central

Game 1 – Friday, 4 p.m.

Game 2 – Friday, 7 p.m.

Game 3 – Saturday, 1 p.m. (if necessary)