LEESBURG — Forsyth Central’s Andrew Gist and David Bermudez were pulling the strings on the mound Wednesday to make sure Lee County’s bats stayed off-balance.
Gist and Bermudez held Lee County to five runs and eight hits in two games, sweeping the Trojans in the second round of the Class AAAA state playoffs, 2-1 and 5-4.
Gist’s changeup was masterful in a complete game 2-1 win in the opener, and Bermudez struck out 11 in five innings for a 5-4 Bulldogs win in Game 2 to send Central to the quarterfinals for the first time in more than a decade.
“Both those guys have been solid for us,” Central fourth-year coach Kevin McCollum said. “I’ve got a good group of kids who enjoy playing the game. I think our success stems from that.”
Lee County (20-9) managed just eight hits in two games and failed to advance past the second round for the fourth straight season.
“Their pitching really kept us off-balance all night, throwing offspeed for strikes,” Lee County coach Rob Williams said.
Region 1-AAAA’s top-seeded Trojans got one run off Gist in the fourth inning of Game 1 on Jess Posy’s RBI single, but that was all the offense could manage. Gist struck out six and has allowed just two runs in 14 innings of playoff baseball in sweeps of Winder-Barrow and Lee County.
“Andrew has been throwing the ball well here at the end of the season and giving us some chances to win ball games,” McCollum said.
Posey (7-1) suffered his first loss of the season, but was solid in seven innings of work, scattering eight hits and striking out five.
“Jess deserved a better fate,” Williams said. “We just didn’t get enough hits. [Posey] coming back from a tough year last year [after missing nearly the entire season due to a back injury], you’ve got to be proud of that.”
After trailing 5-2 in the seventh inning of Game 2, Lee rallied to cut it to 5-4 on run-scoring hits by Daniel Nichols and Posey. With the tying run on first, Bulldogs reliever Daniel Bermudez finished off Lee County with a strikeout and fly out.
Lee County led the second game 1-0 heading into the fourth inning behind starter Chris Mosley before the Bulldogs (22-7-1, Region 7-AAAA No. 3 seed) scored four runs with two outs in the bottom of the frame. One run scored on a wild pitch with the bases loaded, two more came across on a slow roller that Michael Branigan beat out for a hit, and Daniel Bermudez capped it off with a RBI single.
Daniel Bermudez finished with three RBI in the series to lead the Bulldogs, who advance to the quarterfinals to face the Alexander-Whitewater winner. Those two teams were rained out Wednesday and were set to play Thursday.
“We’ve still been leaving too many guys on base,” McCollum said, “but that inning there ... we got some [in-between hits] and made them make some tough defensive plays.”
Rain in the area pushed Game 1 back two hours and the nightcap almost didn’t happen. The GHSA was called after the opener was completed in less than two hours and it decided to go ahead and start Game 2 after 9 p.m.
“Two-thirds of a field was a pond [after the rain],” McCollum said, “but they did a good job of getting it ready.”