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Baseball: Central clinches home playoff series with win over North
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Forsyth Central's A.J. Fiechter beats out a ball on the infield during the Bulldogs' game against North Forsyth on April 15, 2019 at North Forsyth High School. - photo by Ben Hendren

In the final inning of Forsyth Central’s Monday matchup with North Forsyth, the Bulldogs’ Will Robbins found himself searching for some divine intervention.

The sophomore had thrown a relatively clean sixth inning, but in the seventh, the Raiders were taking full advantage of their last three outs. Miles Hartsfield led North off with a double to left. Robbins struck out his next two, but after an RBI single from Justice Bailey, he plunked Jess Ackerman to load the bases.

“I just didn't have all my pitches,” Robbins said. “After I hit (Ackerman) I was just like, ‘Oh, no.’ (Bailey) got that hit and I was like, 'Well, I've got to get this done.”

As North’s Tyler Triche stepped to the plate looking to earn his team another comeback win, Robbins took in a moment of solitude in the midst of a pressure situation. He said a prayer to himself, and four pitches later, he rung up Triche swinging on a high fastball, securing a 5-3 victory for the Bulldogs. 

Players mobbed Robbins in celebration after the final pitch, and for good reason: The win locked up a home state playoff series in the first round for the Bulldogs, who now stand at 10-3 in Region 5-7A play. The third-place Raiders, who were hoping to draw a game closer to Central in the standings, fell to 7-6.

“It was just a rush of emotion, (but) that's not all we have this season,” Robbins said. “We're out here to win the region and continue on deep in the state playoffs.”

Knowing what was at stake, the Bulldogs sent Jacob Ryan to the mound against the Raiders on short rest. Even if it wasn’t his best start of the season, Ryan ultimately did his part, earning the win with eight strikeouts over five innings while allowing six hits.

“I honestly felt pretty good,” Ryan said. “I could tell that I was on short rest but that wasn't the problem. Some pitches weren't working today.”

Central jumped on North in the second, with a two-run error at third and a two-RBI single for Jonathan Bergmoser putting the Bulldogs in front 4-0.

North took advantage of the few mistakes Ryan made at the plate, albeit with limited results in run production. Scoring runs has been a challenge for North since spring break, and on Monday, the slump mostly continued.

In the second, the Raiders snapped a 16-inning scoreless streak when Holton Payne connected on a solo home run to left, cutting Central’s lead to 4-1. Ackerman made it 4-2 with a double in the fourth, but that was all North could get until the seventh. Greg Tasos gave the Bulldogs their three-run cushion back with an RBI single in the fifth.

“We've been hitting the ball pretty hard, just right at people,” North coach Jim Cahill said. “Sometimes that's the way the game goes. We need to do a better job capitalizing when we've got people on base.”

Clinching home-field advantage certainly is nice for the Bulldogs and especially for their seniors, but with one more game against first-place Milton on the horizon, their aspirations are much larger.

“I think we have some other goals this week we'd like to try and accomplish," Central coach Kevin McCollum said. "We'll go over to West on Wednesday and see how we do.”