The seven-inning game had somehow stretched to almost three hours, the sun was down and a frigid wind was blowing. The Forsyth Central baseball team could be forgiven for some excess excitement about Wednesday night's game against Lambert being over.
But while the pitch from Bulldogs reliever Bryan Brock looked good, it was called a ball. Multiple Bulldogs in the field had started celebrating, and a few had begun their dash out of the dugout, but the at-bat did not end on a called third strike, and the count on Longhorns shortstop Carter Ballstadt went to 1-2.
The premature celebration didn't bother Bulldogs head coach Kevin McCollum, who was more focused on the next pitch and what he wanted to see there.
"I feel confident with all our guys if they're willing to challenge people and throw the ball across the plate," McCollum said. "You can't defend a walk -- never have been never will be able to."
Brock delivered a strike on the next pitch, and Ballstadt swung and missed, giving Central a 6-5 win, the Bulldogs' second straight in the opening week of Region 5-7A play.
Brock threw 2 1/3 innings in relief of Central (4-10, 2-0 Region 5-7A) starter Mitchell Gross, and his longevity was particularly welcome, given the day-by-day status of the Bulldogs' pitching corps, with staff ace Ethan Hankins on the shelf due to a shoulder issue. Davis Smith, Central's other main reliever, had thrown two innings against the Longhorns the night before.
"I guess the approach we're taking right now is play to win tonight, and then figure everything out afterwards," McCollum said.
Brock's outing had the desired result, but also featured a few bumps along the way. He relieved Gross with one out in the fifth inning and two runners on base, and then walked a batter and hit another to let the Longhorns cut a 6-2 deficit to 6-3.
Lambert (4-9, 0-2) scored two more runs the next inning, one on when Brady Burroughs scampered home and beat a throw from first after an error by the third baseman, and another when Collin Price hit a double to score Gavin Nies. Brock stranded runners at second and third, though, striking out Jack Fleming and Jonathan Hemings.
"I just focused on me and Woz (catcher Greg Wozniak)," Brock said. "I just pretended we were playing catch the entire time, just like in the bullpen."
And while he was a bit surprised at the call that delayed the game's end, Brock wasn't too bothered by having to keep pitching.
"I was like, 'Okay,'" he said. "But I just get to strike him out again. So, it was pretty fun."