After allowing four runs in the first two innings and struggling with his control, Forsyth Central senior Parker Morrison didn't look like he'd last much longer. His head coach Kevin McCollum had other ideas.
Morrison bounced back from a rough start to strike out nine batters in the final four innings, including the last two after allowing a game-tying run on an error of his own, and the Bulldogs walked off their home field Wednesday night with a dramatic 7-6 victory.
Taylor Bauman scored the winning run in the seventh when a Pierce Nufer routine ground ball to Kell's third basemen was botched. Bauman beat the throw home and was immediately surrounded by teammates.
According to McCollum, the close contest was a much-needed wake up call coming out of spring break. Central, now 15-3 and 12-1 in Region 7-AAAAA, Div. B, entered the game against Kell (12-6, 9-4) on a remarkable eight-game winning streak where they outscored opponents 86-13.
“It was good to be in a close one,” McCollum said. “I don't think we've been in a close game like that in a while. A couple of weeks ago we might have folded down, but they battled back. I don't know if it's because we were still on spring break for the first two innings, but we started the game like we practiced yesterday. Hopefully their heads are back in it.”
Central poked away at Kell's early four-run advantage and finally took the lead in the fifth inning when Luke Sutko singled to bring home Bauman and his brother, Hunter. Nufer also scored on the play off a throwing error to give Central a 6-5 lead.
Just when Morrison was cooking most, he ran into trouble in the seventh. After striking out the side in the previous inning, Morrison missed first-base on a routine play, allowing Kell's Jackson Pickert to tie the game.
Central answered with one out as Taylor Bauman recorded in an infield single, then advanced to second after his brother was hit by a pitch. Nufer's final swing ended the game, much to the liking of Morrison, who finished with a still-impressive line of seven hits, nine strikeouts and just two walks to his credit.
McCollum never doubted his ability to recover and win the game.
“He's a mentally tough kid. Struggled a little bit in the first few innings but settled down to give us a chance to get back in the game. You hope to get that from a senior pitcher, and he gave us all seven innings and a chance to win it at the end,” McCollum said.
Kell's 4-2 lead went to 5-3 in the fifth when Jackson Jones hammered a home run over the scoreboard in right-center field. Central scored its first two runs in the bottom of the second when Luke Sutko hit a ball that carried with the wind over the left fielder's head, scoring pinch runner Hunter Joyner. Ethan Hankins got an RBI of his own, scoring Sutko.
Sutko finished 3 for 3 with a double, three RBI and a run scored, while Bauman and Wade Smith were 2 for 4 and 2 for 3, respectively. Smith singled to score Nufer in the bottom of the fourth.
Kell's Jones finished 2 for 3 with a double and a home run, while Bryant Grant also doubled for the Longhorns. Kell starting pitcher Anthony Porter lasted five frames, giving up seven hits and three walks against three strikeouts.
Central's Robbie Repasz started the game at catcher but was pulled with a hand injury he sustained running to second base.