Forsyth Central’s players put on their rally caps in the bottom of the seventh inning Wednesday, but it was too little, too late.
The Bulldogs found second life on the first of two controversial calls in their final turn at the plate, but the second brought a wild end to a 9-7 loss against Northwest Whitfield at the Central field.
The Bruins (10-7, 6-5 Region 7-AAAA) generated all their offense early, scoring six runs in the second inning and three in the third.
Central (12-4-1, 8-3) jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the first inning but didn’t score again until putting four runners across the plate in the seventh.
“Got to give hats off to our guys for fighting there in the seventh,” Central coach Kevin McCollum said. “But we’ve got to start playing baseball innings two through sixth. We shouldn’t be in those situations in the end.”
Spencer Transue (2-for-4, 2 RBI, R) got things started for the Bulldogs in the first, lining a single off second base into center field. Daniel Bermudez (1-for-4) and Chap Lindstrom (2-for-4, HR, 2 RBI, R) both walked to load the bases, before David Bermudez hit into a fielder’s choice that scored Transue.
Miller Cone (1-for-3, RBI) then lined an RBI single to center, and the ball got past the center fielder for a two-base error that allowed Ian Leeds to cross the plate behind Bermudez.
Northwest Whitfield answered in the top of the second, starting with a double to the right-center gap by Edwin Hernandez (1-for-4, R). Nick Sullivan drew a walk, which put pinch runner Andy Withenet on first. After Hernandez stole third, Matt Allen (1-for-3, RBI, R) drove him in with an infield single to the shortstop.
Bulldogs starting pitcher David Bermudez (1.2 IP, 6 H, 6 R, 2K, 3 BB) gave up four more hits, a walk and five more earned runs before Jordan Woodard (2.1 IP, 2 H, 3 R) came on in for relief.
Woodard stopped the bleeding with an inning-ending fly out by Brandon Smith but surrendered three more runs in the third, padding the Bruins’ lead to 9-3.
The Bulldogs received a strong relief effort from Andrew Gist, who struck out four and surrendered only two hits in four shutout innings.
But by the time Gist took the mound, Northwest Whitfield starting pitcher Seth Pierce had settled into a groove, after a difficult first inning. Pierce pitched a complete game, giving up five hits and seven earned runs while striking out six.
“He did a nice job of getting ahead of most of our hitters,” McCollum said of the Bruins left-hander. “He really kept us off balance.”
Central’s bats finally came to life and staged a rally in the seventh.
Michael Bryant drew a leadoff walk, followed by a single to left field by pinch hitter Devin Compton.
Central cut the lead to 9-5 when Transue doubled down the right field line.
Although the play brought two runs home, Transue was thrown out at third base, leaving the Bruins one out from a victory.
After Daniel Bermudez reached on an error, the Bruins thought the game was over when Chap Lindstrom swung and foul-tipped a two-strike pitch.
The catcher came up with the ball in his glove, but as the Bruins’ jogged onto the infield for postgame formalities, the umpires met and overturned the call, ruling that the ball had first hit the dirt.
Lindstrom took advantage of his second chance and hammered a two run homer over the left field wall, cutting the lead 9-7.
David Bermudez followed and, facing a 2-2 count, tried to check-swing on what was called ball three by the home plate umpire. But the Bruins asked for an appeal to the first base umpire, who ruled that Bermudez had swung — ending the game.