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Baseball: Central drops region opener
Stranded baserunners come back to bite Bulldogs
sports-CentralSequoyah2-websmall JP
Forsyth Central reliever Jeffrey Rous fields a grounder and throws out Sequoyah’s Brian Exley during the Region 7-AAAAA opener on Monday at Bulldog Field. - photo by Jared Putnam

Forsyth Central couldn’t solve Sequoyah’s pitchers when it mattered most.

With Central down by two with the bases loaded, Devon Compton popped out to the shortstop for the final out of the game to give the Chiefs a 7-5 victory in the Region 7-AAAAA opener on Monday at Bulldog Field. Central loaded the bases three times and left 11 runners on base, including eight in scoring position.

"We left too many runners in scoring position, simple as that," Central head coach Kevin McCollum said. "We had our chances, we just didn’t score enough. We helped them with two or three runs, but that’s a solid club, much improved from last year. Their pitchers did a good job and battled all night. We just came up on the short end of the stick."

The Bulldogs (4-3, 0-1 region) trailed 7-3 entering the sixth inning, but rallied to put the pressure on Sequoyah (6-0, 1-0).

After a pair of walks put Ian Leeds and Taylor Bauman on base, Compton hit a ground ball to the shortstop, but the throw to first was off target and drew the first baseman off the bag to load the bases for Michael Branigan with one out. Branigan (0-for-1, 2 RBI, HBP, BB) powered the ball to right-center field for a sacrifice fly to score Leeds (2-for-2, 2 1B, 2 BB) and close the gap to within three, but a pop out in foul territory ended the inning.

The Bulldogs rallied again in the final inning when Dee Kelly (2-for-3, 2B, 1B, BB) drew a walk and Miller Cone singled to right field to put runners on the corners to start the inning. Kelly took advantage of a wild pitch against the next batter and scored easily from third to cut the lead to 7-5, but the Bulldogs couldn’t manage another run as they alternated between strikeouts and walks before Compton popped out to end the game.

Sequoyah started the contest off with a bang as leadoff hitter Jacob Cagle drove the ball to deep left-center field for a triple and eventually scored on a wild pitch from Central starting pitcher Nik Verbeke (4 IP, 5 ER, 7 H, 5 K, 4 BB).

The Bulldogs tied the game in the bottom half of the frame when Branigan scored from first off Kelly’s double to right field.

Andrew Gist, who reached on a single, gave Central the lead in the second inning as he easily scored from third when the catcher overthrew the shortstop trying to catch Leeds stealing second.

But that was the last time Central led, as the Chiefs scratched out three runs off Verbeke in the third.

Sequoyah loaded the bases with the help of a bunt single and a fielding error by Verbeke before Jacob Weems drew a four-pitch walk to tie the game. Teammate Russ McGlamry recorded an RBI groundout, while Chandler Smith crossed the plate on a wild pitch to give the Chiefs a 4-2 lead.

Sequoyah pitcher Evan Ezell (3 2/3 IP, 3 ER, 6 H, 3 K, 2 BB, 1 HBP) helped his cause at the plate with an RBI single up the middle, just past the diving shortstop in the fourth.

Central loaded the bases again in the bottom half of the inning, but only came away with one run after Branigan drew a full-count walk to score Leeds and make the score 5-3.

Jeffery Rous relieved Verbeke in the fifth inning, but his first pitch was smashed over the fence in left-center for a home run by Sequoyah’s Tyler Homes. Cagle added to the lead with a sacrifice fly to right field, bringing the score to 7-3.

"We have a lot of fresh and new faces out here starting for us, so hopefully we get better each game we play," McCollum said. " … We just battle back. It’s the first game of region play. It’s the first game of an [18] game region schedule and one loss isn’t going to win or lose the region title. We’ll just go back to battling on Wednesday."

Central will play at Kell today at 5:55 p.m.