CANTON — After dropping three of its last four games, Forsyth Central needed a win Monday, as a critical week of Region 7-AAAA action got underway.
The Bulldogs’ offense did the bulk of the work, scoring nine runs on seven hits, while the team got a solid relief pitching performance from junior Andrew Gist on the way to a much-needed 9-6 win at Creekview.
The victory allowed Central (13-5-1, 9-4 region) to trade places with Creekview (12-7, 9-5) in the region standings. The Grizzlies dropped to fourth place, while Central moved to third — and within a half-game of second-place Lambert (13-5, 9-3).
“It was good to play a little better today,” Bulldogs head coach Kevin McCollum said. “We hit the ball better and we didn’t give them too many opportunities with walks or not making plays defensively.”
Central jumped out to a 4-0 lead with a run in the second inning, two in the third and another in the fourth. Senior first baseman Chap Lindstrom got things started when he led off the second with a solo homer, 380 feet away to straight-away center field.
In the third inning, senior Daniel Bermudez drilled a two-out, two-run triple to right centerfield to score Gist, who had been hit by a pitch from 6-foot-7 junior starter Ryan Zentko, and senior shortstop Spencer Transue, who was on base via a two-out infield single.
The Bulldogs added another run in the fourth when junior left fielder Miller Cone led off with a triple and scored on a one-out sacrifice fly by Gist.
Creekview narrowed the gap to 4-2 in the bottom of the frame, but Central blew the game open in the fifth with five runs, including three that came on a one-out, bases-loaded double by winning pitcher David Bermudez.
Driesse, who led off the inning being hit by a pitch, junior Ian Leeds, who was in to run for Daniel Bermudez after Bermudez was intentionally walked, and Lindstrom, who also was intentionally walked, all scored to put the Bulldogs on top 7-2.
Two batters later, sophomore Dee Kelly advanced to first after he swung and missed strike three and the pitch got away from catcher Jack Mayo. Senior Chris Bier, who was in to run for Daniel Bermudez, raced over to third.
After Zentko loaded the bases by hitting Gist — his third hit batsman of the game — he was pulled for junior Ben Carraway. Sophomore Michael Branigan drilled a ball that took a nasty hop off the grass and over the head of Creekview freshman shortstop Chandler Wold to score Bier and Kelley and give Central a 9-2 lead.
The Grizzlies responded with four runs in their half of the fifth to narrow the gap to 9-6. The brunt of the damage came on four consecutive base hits with one out. Senior designated hitter D’Ondrei Hubbard’s single scored Wold. Zentko, who stayed in the game to play first base, doubled to score Hubbard, and after a single by Avery Smith moved Zentko to third, he scored on Nick Williams’ single to left.
Gist came in to relieve Bermudez and got Cheshire to ground out and pinch hitter senior Eric Degen to fly out to left. Gist went on to earn the save, striking out two and yielding just two hits over the next two innings of relief.
McCollum hopes the Bulldogs will stay focused the rest of the week in games at Chattahoochee today and at Rome on Friday — two teams with a combined record of 6-19 in the region — before they host No. 6-ranked Johns Creek on April 17.
Central is the only team in the region that’s beaten the Gladiators this season — a 6-4 win on March 20.
“I hope we’ve learned our lesson that in this region, anybody can beat anybody,” McCollum said. “Chattahoochee has some really good pitchers and if we don’t hit, they can definitely beat us. But we haven’t played our best baseball yet. Hopefully we’re about to do that here coming up.”