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Baseball: Central keeps playoff hopes alive
Cone's slam lifts Dawgs over Spartans
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Forsyth County News

Forsyth Central’s baseball team kept its late-season surge going with a 9-2 win over North Springs on Monday, but the Bulldogs still need some serious help if they are going to return to the playoffs.

A senior class that was a part of last season’s run to the state quarterfinals was honored with a pregame ceremony, post-game cake and cookies and a chilly ice bath targeted at senior third baseman Miller Cone.

Cone’s grand slam highlighted a seven-run second inning, sending the Bulldogs to their fifth straight win.

Cone’s blast was the only hit of the inning for the Bulldogs (15-10, 11-8 Region 7-AAAAA). North Springs (6-17, 3-15) committed four errors to help fuel the seven-run outburst. Dee Kelly, Jake Nix and Andrew Gist all reached on errors and came home to scored, before Nate Short, Ian Leeds and Michael Branigan worked their way on base to set the stage for Cone.

"We just keep fighting," said Cone, who, with the bases loaded and two outs in the second, deposited the first pitch he saw over the left field fence for his second home run of the season. "It was just one of those pitches that you see it and hit it."

Central must win at Northview on Wednesday and have Riverwood lose its final two games, vs. Cambridge on Wednesday and at Creekview on Thursday, to have a shot at the playoffs. And even then, it may require a tie-breaker game.

Nik Verdeke did the work on the mound for Central, allowing just two runs, one earned, on three hits in six innings. Verdeke, a junior who will be looked upon to play a major role next season, showed good command of three pitches. He mixed in curve balls, change-ups and fastballs, finishing with seven strikeouts and only two walks.

The Bulldogs tacked on two more runs in the fifth.

Gist’s RBI single scored Devon Compton. Gist later came home on Taylor Bauman’s high fly that eluded the North Springs’ outfield.

Baily Wood and Hunter Bryan had RBIs for North Springs in the third. Starter JD Grider gave up only two hits and recovered nicely after giving up the grand slam.

Central coach Kevin McCollum smiled after the win, as he watched Cone elude teammates trying to douse him with a post-game ice bath. Cone finally relented, but only after gathering with the other eight seniors for a picture.

"We’ve been a little more consistent, but haven’t played our best game yet," McCollum said.

He’s hoping that comes today against Northview. Gist, Central’s No. 1 starter, will get ball against the Titans, McCollum said.