Forsyth Central pitcher Ryan Cox had barely left the field after his complete game shutout finished a first round playoff sweep Friday for the Bulldogs when the junior was delivered his plans for prom night dinner by a classmate.
It was the worry hovering in the air Friday night: Central’s prom was in less than 24 hours, and most of the 26 teenage boys in the Bulldogs’ dugout expected to attend. How much time they would have to prepare depended on the thoroughness of their performance Friday. A sweep, and they could take a leisurely approach Saturday. A split, and there would be a nerve-wracking baseball game to fit in first.
Parker Morrison and Cox saved the day, throwing a shutout each as Central swept Druid Hills 10-0 and 6-0 at home in the first round of the Class AAAAA playoffs.
The Bulldogs will play the winner of Jones County and South Effingham in the second round next Wednesday.
“Really liked how we came out and played in Game 1,” Central head coach Kevin McCollum said. “We took a good approach, put the ball on the ground and didn’t try to do too much, and the results were good.”
A year ago, Central (22-4) was making its first state playoff appearance in three years. It was an untested group that needed all three games against Salem to advance to the second round.
But as it did in last year’s first round, pitching availed the Bulldogs.
Morrison, a veteran of last year’s playoff run, allowed just two walks and four hits while striking out six in five innings of a mercy-ruled game. The senior gave up no hits through the first two innings. Four times Druid Hills moved a runner into scoring position, and each time the North Georgia signee left them stranded.
Cox, making his first playoff start, was even better, scattering just three hits with no walks and seven strikeouts in seven complete innings. Druid Hills never had a runner reach second base. He retired 13 of the last 14 batters he faced. He even withstood physical pain, staying in after taking a line drive off the chest to start the bottom of the fourth inning.
“I knew I had my defense behind me,” Cox said, “I knew I had my offense there. We all just played as one single team today, one big family.”
Central’s offense was less consistent. After a scoreless first inning in Game 1, the Bulldogs’ bats awakened to score two runs each in the second and third innings and three runs apiece in the fourth and fifth. Game 2 was less encouraging. The Bulldogs scored a pair of runs in the first, third and seventh innings, but they went hitless for a three-inning stretch in between.
Luke Sutko was 3-for-6 with four RBI, Hunter Bauman drove in three while Parker Biederer and Robbie Repasz each had four hits.
“We jumped on them early and kind of let off the gas,” McCollum said. “This time of year, you can’t do that. Hopefully we’ll learn a little lesson from that.”