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Baseball: Dawgs upend Grizz
Gist helps own cause with two home runs
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Forsyth Central’s Jacob Keesee scores ahead of a throw to Creekview catcher Kyle Wilkie on Tuesday in Cumming. - photo by Jared Putnam

On a night where Andrew Gist didn’t have his best stuff on the mound, the senior left-hander compensated for it at the plate.

Gist lifted two solo home runs over the right field fence in the first three innings and those hits proved to be difference makers, as Forsyth Central knocked off region-leading Creekview 9-7 on Tuesday in Cumming.

The Bulldogs (7-6, 3-4 Region 7-AAAAA) handed the Grizzlies (6-5, 5-1) their first region loss of the season and have now won their last two region games after dropping four out of their first five.

"Anytime you can beat somebody ahead of you [in the standings] it’s a good win," Central head coach Kevin McCollum said. "The thing I liked about our guys today is that we had some enthusiasm and when we ran into those adverse situations, [we] kind of made light of it. We hit the ball pretty well tonight — we got some clutch hits that we haven’t been getting — and played some pretty good defense for the most part."

Gist’s first homer put Central ahead 1-0 in the bottom of the first inning before Miller Cone (3-for-4, 2B, 2 RBI, 2 RS, SB) singled, stole second and scored on a base hit by Jake Nix to double the lead to 2-0.

Nix’s hit brought a quick hook for Creekview starting pitcher Ryan Zentko, who was relieved by Avery Smith.

Gist (7 IP, 8 K, 7 R, 5 ER, 7 H, 3 BB) kept Central ahead 2-0 until the bottom of the third, when he provided himself more support with another high fly ball that drifted over the right field fence. Gist (2-for-3) occupies the No. 2 hole in Central’s batting order this season following a junior campaign in which McCollum typically used a designated hitter in his place, even when he was starting in right field.

"I guess the time off was good because I’m hitting a lot better this year than I was last year," Gist said. "I’ve been really working on hitting to the right side ... and it worked out [well tonight]."

Stevan Whitaker got Creekview on the scoreboard in the top of the fourth, hitting the first of three of his team’s home runs to cut Central’s lead to 3-1, and Kyle Wilkie tacked on an RBI double off the center field wall in the fifth to further trim the score to 3-2.

The Bulldogs responded with four runs in the bottom of the fifth courtesy of an RBI double by Cone, an error that resulted in a run and a two-run triple by Willie Ortiz.

Gist retired the first two Creekview batters he faced in the sixth, but ran into trouble when he gave up a home run to Chase Puckett followed by a single from R.J. Knecht and a walk to Smith. Gist then induced an infield pop up for what should have been the third out of the inning, but the ball popped out of first baseman Dee Kelly’s glove, allowing the Grizzlies to tack on two unearned runs before Wilkie struck out to end the inning.

The Bulldogs answered with two crucial runs in the bottom of the sixth with the help of control problems by Creekview reliever Nick Williams. The junior right-hander issued consecutive walks to Michael Branigan and Gist to start the inning, and later allowed Branigan to score on a wild pitch. The Bulldogs added their final run on Cone’s third hit of the night.

Creekview made one final rally in the seventh when Chandler Wold drew a two-out walk and Puckett launched his second homer of the night over the right field fence, but Gist struck out Zach Murdock to end the game.

The contest marked something of an uncharacteristic performance for Gist, who already has a no-hitter and a one-hitter to his credit this season. McCollum said playing conditions were a factor, helping the Bulldogs on some occasions and hurting them on others.

"The wind was blowing out to right field," McCollum said. "There was probably three or four balls that shouldn’t go out on a normal day, but it’s the lay of the land here."

Central was set to travel to Osborne on Wednesday and is scheduled to face Northview on the road today at 5:55 p.m.