When A.J. Fiechter stepped to the plate with the wind coursing towards left field on Thursday night, he knew Forsyth Central’s dugout needed something positive.
With the Bulldogs and visiting Milton tied atop the region standings, Thursday’s game against the Eagles was for the Region 5-7A championship. Despite that, the Bulldogs seemed devoid of energy to start the game, and although Central won the season series over Milton, they were in jeopardy of losing the game in the series that mattered the most.
The Eagles held a 5-0 lead after smacking a few balls into the wind for solo home runs in the top half of the second. With one out in the third, Fiechter connected on a hard hit ball into that same wind, and to his surprise, his shot cleared the fence, too. So when he greeted his celebrating teammates at home plate, he took the opportunity to yell in celebration in hopes that his home run would begin Central’s comeback.
“I was just trying to fight and I got a pitch that I like to see,” Fiechter said. “I just did what I could with it and got a result that I wasn't expecting. I just kind of hoped that would fire us up a little bit. I was just trying to get something started.”
Central parlayed that short burst of energy into another run in the same inning, but it was ultimately all the Bulldogs would get. The Eagles tagged Central pitching for 13 hits, and after scoring six runs in the last two innings, Milton came away with a 11-2 win to earn the top seed out of the region. Central, who will be the region’s No. 2 seed, will host their first round playoff matchup next Wednesday against South Gwinnett.
“They brought a little bit more energy to the ballpark to start out tonight, and I think we were on our heels a little bit and left a couple of balls up early,” Central coach Kevin McCollum said. “They caught the wind and got out of the park, and I think we were a little bit hesitant after that. Hopefully, it's a learning experience for us.”
Milton scored one on an RBI single in the first, but with the two home runs in the Eagles’ first three at-bats in the second, the momentum was firmly on their side. In addition to Milton’s surging offense, Central committed four errors on Thursday night, with two of them allowing Milton to extend their lead to 5-0 after two.
“You've got to make the routine plays, and we didn't make the routine plays tonight,” McCollum said.
After Fiechter’s home run and an RBI single from Greg Tasos in the bottom of the third, Central was still in reach down 5-2. That inning ended with the bases loaded, and the Bulldogs ended the sixth in the same way. Just one night after run-ruling West Forsyth, Central left 10 runners on base against Milton. Meanwhile, the Eagles kept adding onto their lead, scoring five in the sixth and one in the seventh.
“By the fourth inning, we were just flat,” Fiechter said. “We're a team that can score in bunches so I don't think we should be giving up early.”
The missed chance at a region championship and seeing a region opponent celebrate on their home field stung for the Bulldogs, but Central hopes that they can take whatever positive lessons they can out of Thursday night's loss into the postseason.
“The only good thing that I can take from it is that this loss will make us hungry in the playoffs,” Fiechter said. “Hopefully we go on a run.”