WINDER — Forsyth Central head coach Kevin McCollum knows his senior-dominated squad has too much fun on the field to be worried about traveling to uncharted territory to open the Class AAAA state tournament.
So it was no surprise to McCollum that Region 7-AAAA’s Bulldogs (20-7-1) kept their 2012 season alive by sweeping Region 8-AAAA’s second-seeded Winder-Barrow by scores of 4-1 and 6-2 on Friday in Winder.
“It’s a pretty loose group,” McCollum said.
“They do a good job of having fun, but not getting carried away with it. They were pretty relaxed coming into it.”
Central’s expansive senior staff will get a little more playing time out of their high school careers in round two, when they face the winner of the first-round series between Lee County and Wayne County on Wednesday.
But through five innings of the Game 1 in Friday’s doubleheader in Winder, it was anyone’s guess whether those seniors would still be around for round two, as the game remained tied 1-1 entering the final frame.
That’s when catcher Daniel Bermudez doubled to right off Winder-Barrow lefty Blake Marbut to score Michael Branigan and Spencer Transue, putting Central up 3-1.
Ryan Driesse brought Bermudez’s courtesy runner Ian Leeds with a sacrifice fly later in the inning to secure the win for the Bulldogs.
Bermudez finished the game 2-for-4 with two runs and two RBI.
He also scored Central’s game-tying run in the top of the fifth off of a Chap Lindstrom double.
Andrew Gist picked up the Game 1 win, throwing a complete game with four strikeouts and eight hits allowed. He was one of only two pitchers to appear in the series, as David Bermudez threw all seven innings in Game 2.
“They probably threw a little bit more than what we’d like to, but they were throwing well towards the end, and they did a good job,” McCollum said. “They threw a lot of strikes, which kept us in it.”
Gist’s only damage was a run scored by Winder-Barrow in the bottom of the fourth, when Jake Frady scored Ryan Brown to give the Bulldoggs (17-11) their only lead of the series.
Marbut took the Game 1 loss for Winder-Barrow, striking out seven hitters and walking three.
The Winder Bulldoggs’ attempt to even the series slipped out of their hands early in Game 2, as Forsyth Central unloaded four runs on five hits to open the contest.
Miller Cone, Driesse and Jake Nix each collected RBI singles for the Bulldogs, while Transue scored on a wild pitch thrown by Winder-Barrow starter Blake Oviedo.
Oviedo, who has seen limited time as a starter this year and is more commonly used in the bullpen, pitched three innings, striking out two and giving up eight hits. He made the start over typical No. 2 hurler Travis Demeritte.
“Travis came up with a bit of a tight shoulder this week and I respect him too much to put him in a situation that could cause any problems for him,” Winder-Barrow head coach Brian Smith said. “Blake has done an excellent job of hammering the zone and pounding strikes. He’s very positive and he just goes after people.”
Instead of pitching, Demeritte — one of the state’s top junior prospects — displayed his typical prowess at the plate, going 2-for-3 with a seventh-inning home run.
But Demerrite’s four-bagger came too late for the Bulldoggs, as Forsyth Central added two more runs to their early lead, one coming in the third when Lindstrom scored on a passed ball, and another off Cone’s RBI single in the fifth.
Lindstrom finished the game a perfect 3-for-3 with two singles. Cone added two hits, along with David Bermudez.
Dalton Carter scored Winder-Barrow’s only other run came in the top of the fifth off an RBI single that scored Alex Childers.