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Baseball: Central exits playoffs after two losses to Mountain View
A Forsyth Central baseball player says a prayer during the Bulldogs’ doubleheader against Mountain View on Friday, April 27, 2018 in the first round of the Class 7A state playoffs. - photo by Brian Paglia

The Forsyth Central baseball team did not rush to leave the field after Friday evening’s doubleheader against Mountain View.

After the Bulldogs’ coaches addressed the postgame gathering, players exchanged hugs and encouraging words, and some sat down against the outfield fence. Another group went to the infield and lay down on the mound. Bradlee Brooks, the team’s senior first baseman, walked over to that corner of the infield.

One of the Bulldogs’ mottos for this year was “We’re not going out sad,” a reference to the team’s goals of winning a state title. On Friday, though, Central was forced to confront those feelings after Mountain View swept the teams’ first-round state playoff doubleheader, winning 4-3 and 4-2 to end Central’s season.

“I don’t know if you can ever be happy with where you’re at when you didn’t get to the end,” Bulldogs head coach Kevin McCollum said.

Central faced a barrage of ups and downs in the two games, during which the Bulldogs combined to outhit the Bears 15-8. Central carried a 3-2 lead into the sixth inning of the first game, with Greg Wozniak’s two-run home run and Jacob Holton’s RBI double creating a one-run cushion for starting pitcher Ethan Hankins.

A leadoff walk, steal and groundout put a runner on third with one out in the sixth inning for Hankins. The senior Vanderbilt signee proceeded to strike out Matthew Lee and get a 1-2 count on Jackson Peck, but Peck ripped an elevated fastball over the wall in left-center to give Mountain View the decisive lead.

The Bulldogs loaded the bases with one out in both the sixth and seventh innings, but they couldn’t push a run across in either situation.

“They got the hits when they needed to, and we didn’t,” McCollum said. “That’s baseball.”

Forsyth Central senior Jacob Holton takes off his helmet after the final out of the Bulldogs' Class 7A first-round state playoff series against Mountain View on Friday, April 27, 2018. - photo by Brian Paglia

Peck tormented Central again in game two. The Bears loaded the bases without a hit in the first inning against Mitchell Gross off an error and two walks, and Peck then sent a hard line drive over the right field wall, giving Mountain View a 4-1 lead.

Central got a run back in the fourth on Greg Tasos’ solo home run, but that was all they could get off Mountain View starter Chase Chaney, who allowed four hits in a complete-game win.

The loss put the Bulldogs’ record at 12-20 to end the season, with their 2-10 stretch in non-region play to start the year clearly visible in the overall picture. But the 8-7 run in Region 5-7A put them in position to host on Friday, even though it only gave Central so much solace after two losses.

“I think the amount of work that we put in to ourselves in a position where we were able to host, and even be in the playoffs, definitely made a difference,” Brooks said.

Both coaches and players mentioned the Bulldogs’ chemistry as one of its main strengths this season, and the team’s disappointment at not being able to play together again was plainly visible on Friday.

“I’m overwhelmed,” Brooks said. “Four years of my life went by faster than I can put into words. I love all these guys, each and every one of them. I’ll love this place until the day I die.”

For all the sadness Friday’s results caused, though, there were also years worth of good memories for the Bulldogs on their home field. And after the group of players sitting around the mound spent a few minutes in the dirt, laughter started to ring out.