Forsyth Central rallied from a three-run deficit once on Friday, but couldn’t do it a second time.
After the Bulldogs tied the score 3-3 in the fourth, Woodland first baseman Tyler Stringer capped a three-run top of the fifth with a two-run home run, and the Wildcats held on for a 7-4 win at the Central field.
The loss was the Bulldogs’ third in their last four games following a 7-1 start to the Region 7-AAAA schedule and dropped them into fourth place behind Johns Creek, Lambert and Creekview. It’s the first time Central (12-5-1, 8-4 region) hasn’t occupied one of the top two spots in the region this season.
“We were a little concerned with this week, a little worried,” said Central coach Kevin McCollum, referring to his players’ mindsets while on spring break.
“Hopefully we can come back next week, forget about this week and get back to playing like we’re capable of playing. Tonight we had some errors and some walks that hurt us.”
Woodland (9-9, 6-7) scored all but two of its runs with two out.
With the game scoreless in the top of the third, Bulldogs starting pitcher Spencer Transue (7 IP, 7 R, 6 H, 3 BB, 3 K) sandwiched a walk to pitching counterpart Blake Hall between getting designated hitter Hunter Siniard to ground out and striking out shortstop Camden McGill. But second baseman Chris Cuzzort singled to right center field to put runners at first and third, and left fielder Robert Harris followed with a double to score Hall and give the Wildcats a 1-0 lead.
Stringer then smacked a hard hit ground ball that went through the legs of Central shortstop Ryan Driesse, allowing Cuzzort and Harris to score and push the Woodland lead to 3-0.
The Bulldogs answered in their half of the third when second baseman Michael Branigan led off with a single, was sacrificed to second by Driesse, went to third on a ground out by Transue and scored on a throwing error by Woodland third baseman Brack Bagwell.
Central tied the game in the bottom of the fourth.
Third baseman David Bermudez was hit by Hall to start the inning and went to second on a wild pitch. He advanced to third on a single by designated hitter Dee Kelly, then scored on a base hit by right fielder Andrew Gist.
Woodland coach Corey Gochee pulled Hall and replaced him on the mound with Harris, who got Branigan to fly out for the second out.
But Harris threw a wild pitch on a ball four to Driesse, which allowed Kelly to score from third to tie the game 3-3.
Recent history suggested Woodland was about to fold. The Wildcats came into the day having lost five of their last six games. In all five losses, Woodland held the lead in the fourth inning or later.
But Friday night the ‘Cats finished strong, scoring three runs in the top of the fifth — including two with two outs — to retake control of the game.
Hall, who had moved to right field, led off with a single. He advanced to second on a sac bunt by McGill and went to third on a wild pitch.
Cuzzort grounded out, but Hall scored to put Woodland back on top 4-3. Transue then walked Harris (2-for-2, RBI, R), and Stringer drilled his next pitch deep to center field where it caromed off the top of the fence and over to the other side for a home run, pushing the Wildcats’ lead back to three runs.
Over the final three innings, the Bulldogs were only able to muster one run even though Harris and closer Dalton Martin surrendered three walks and a hit batsman and Hall committed an error.
“Things didn’t go our way, but that’s baseball,” McCollum said. “The beauty of the game is that you get to play every other day. Hopefully we can come back next week and get back on track.”
Central plays three consecutive road games this week, facing Creekview on Monday, Chattahoochee on Wednesday and Rome on Friday. All three games are scheduled for 5:55 p.m.
Gochee hopes this win will be the spark that vaults the Wildcats back into the thick of the playoff hunt. After a week in which Woodland went 1-2 against three of the top five teams in the region, the schedule gets a little easier this week with games at winless Sequoyah and struggling Rome.
“But, just like we showed tonight,” Gochee said, “if you don’t come to play and you don’t execute, you will get beat.”