Forsyth Central went into its playoff series against South Effingham at 5 p.m. on Wednesday. The series didn't end until 9 p.m. the next day.
Two separate and significant rain delays overshadowed the series at hand, but after hours of patience and anxiety the Bulldogs' season ended in the round of 16 for the second year in a row as the Mustangs won the deciding game, 11-1, in five innings on Thursday night.
Central (24-6) walked off with a 9-8 victory in Game 1 as Hunter Joyner scored Connor Tinkle after the Bulldogs surrendered their 8-3 lead in the sixth and seventh. The two teams then played into the third inning and a 1-1 tie before heavy rain halted Game 2 late Wednesday.
The teams had to restart Game 2 from the beginning the next day, but waited two hours before first pitch because of another downpour. The obstacles jeopardized the pitching rotation for Central, which entered the series without Vanderbilt commit Ethan Hankins due to an elbow injury.
Staff ace Ryan Cox pitched three frames in the first version of Game 2, then McCollum had no choice but to send him onto the mound for four more innings the second time around. Cox lasted four innings before a three-error frame meant the end of his work—the Bulldogs fell 4-0.
Junior Luke Sutko, having pitched sparingly during the season, had to take the mound for a critical Game 3. The Mustangs took care of business, winning 11-1 in five innings to clinch the series—the potent visitors had five doubles in the third game.
“These kids are mentally tough,” McCollum said. “(We) came out ready to play. In the first game they were hitting the ball right on the screws and I think every one went to somebody. Our hats are off to (South Effingham). They are a good club, very good defensively and throw strikes with their pitchers.”
Central was eager to extend the contest with two baserunners on and senior Taylor Bauman at the plate. Just one run would have extended the game into the final two innings, but a ball that appeared tipped into the dirt was deemed a third strike.
Despite the loss, Central's senior class—12 deep—left their legacy. The Bulldogs won the Region 7-AAAAA championship two seasons in a row and set a program record for wins in a season in 2016. Central will move up to Class AAAAAAA, joining the other Forsyth County schools, next season.
“There's quite a few (seniors) who have played varsity three or four years, so they've been around a long time,” McCollum said. “They all contributed in various ways, they are a great group of kids excited to come to the field every day. They'll be missed.”
Departing seniors from the Bulldogs club include: Robbie Repasz, Connor Tinkle, Taylor Bauman, Juan Dewendt, Chris Bergmoser, Hunter Joyner, Parker Biederer, Ryu Head, Hunter Bauman, Pierce Nufer, Parker Morrison, Wade Smith and team manager Gabe Velencia.