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Baseball: Central strengthens seeding
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Forsyth County News

The last time Andrew Gist started a game at Lambert’s field, the Forsyth Central left-hander lost despite holding the Longhorns to one run for more than seven innings.

When Gist shut out Lambert through the first three innings on Wednesday only for the Bulldogs to strand their first seven baserunners, it looked like he might be headed for another hard-luck decision.

Instead, Gist (7 IP, 4 K, ER, 5 H, BB, HP) got his team on the scoreboard in the fourth and turned in another strong outing on the mound, as the Bulldogs (18-7-1, 14-6 Region 7-AAAA) closed the regular season with a much-needed 6-1 victory over Lambert in Suwanee.

“He did a nice job on the mound tonight,” Central coach Kevin McCollum said. “[He] got a couple of hits there and got the first RBI, so he had a good night.”

Central’s victory assures that the team will enter the state playoffs as either the No. 2 or 3 seed, while the Longhorns (16-9, 12-7) will go in as either a third or fourth seed. Both teams must wait for the outcome of South Forsyth’s game against Woodland today to learn their exact seeding.

The War Eagles lost to Johns Creek 5-4 on Wednesday, but will still claim the No. 2 seed if they win today. If South loses, Central earns the No. 2 seed and the Longhorns can move up to No. 3 with a win today against Sequoyah (2-23, 2-17).

Central got two runners on with nobody out in each of the first two innings off Lambert starter Clay Crosby, but failed to capitalize both times.

The Bulldogs loaded the bases with one out in the third, before the Longhorns induced an inning-ending 5-2-3 double play that kept the score tied 0-0.

“We left 15 runners on [in the game], and that’s one thing that’s been an Achilles Heel for us the last couple of games,” McCollum said. “We’ve got to improve on that.”

Ryan Driesse and Miller Cone were hit by pitches to start the top of the fourth, and this time Central took advantage of the free baserunners.

Following a sacrifice bunt by Devin Compton, Gist (2-for-4, RBI) drilled a run-scoring single to left to give the Bulldogs a 1-0 lead, chasing Crosby from the game. Michael Branigan followed with a sacrifice fly off reliever Joe Vonderschmidt that scored Cone, giving Gist all the support he would need.

“I just had my off-speed working for me tonight,” Gist said. “I was throwing a lot of strikes, keeping it over the plate.”

The Bulldogs tacked on a third run in the fifth, after David Bermudez reached on an error, stole second and advanced to third on a sacrifice fly. Miller Cone sent a long fly ball to deep center field that Brock Maxwell somehow chased down for the second out of the inning, but Bermudez had plenty of time to tag up and score.

Lambert cut the lead to 3-1 in the bottom of the frame when Chase Alvord drove in Danny Edgeworth with an RBI double to deep center, but that was as close as the Longhorns could get.

Gist and Branigan opened the sixth with consecutive singles off reliever Brian Watson and scored on a double to deep center by Spencer Transue (3-for-3, 2B, 2 RBI, R). David Bermudez later added an RBI single through the left side to increase the lead to 6-1.

Reliever Dylan Biumi came in and prevented any further damage, getting the final five outs for the Longhorns. Biumi was the fourth pitcher of the night for Lambert, which was missing ace Zack Schlosser.

Longhorns coach Jamie Corr said Schlosser was scratched due to a minor injury.

“It gave several pitchers the chance to step up and show what they can do come playoff time, and Dylan Biumi certainly stepped up and showed us he’s ready for the challenge,” Corr said.

The Longhorns travel to Canton to face Sequoyah today (6 p.m.), while the Bulldogs have more than a week to get ready for their Region 8-AAAA opponent in the first round of the state playoffs on May 4.

“It was just a good victory,” McCollum said, “a good way to end the regular season after losing the last two games. We’ll see who we play next Friday, and I hope all the county teams do well.”