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Baseball: McAllaster shines in Forsyth Central's win over No. 10 North Gwinnett

By Keith Agran 

For the Forsyth County News

After North Gwinnett second baseman Eli Pitts planted the second pitch of Thursday's game over the left-field wall, it might have looked like it was going to be a long night for Forsyth Central starter Griffin McAllaster and the home Bulldogs.

But the junior transfer from West Forsyth didn't flinch, and even after giving up another solo shot in the top of the second to opposing pitcher Tyler Hower, McAllaster went into full cruise control, not just keeping the visiting Bulldogs off the scoreboard the rest of the way but also keeping them hitless in an 87-pitch, two-hit, complete-game gem, and a 10-2 Central victory.

"He threw strikes, didn't walk anybody. We've been having some trouble walking people and giving away some free bases, but he made them swing the bat," Central coach Kevin McCollum said. "Gave up a couple of solo home runs, but solo home runs aren't going to beat you. That's what we're living by. But yeah, he threw great, bounced back from a little bit of a rough outing last time, but he's been pretty consistent in his outings this year [so far]."

With McAllaster in the zone after the second inning, his teammates began chipping away at the lead, some of it with help from some spotty North Gwinnett defense as the game wore on. 

In the bottom of the second, shortstop Alex Hernandez [2-for-4, 4 runs, 3 RBIs] lead off with a walk, and after DH Jesse Duong drew a walk to make it first and second, Braden Wudi singled to center scoring Hernandez to cut it to 2-1.

McAllaster cruised through a 1-2-3 top of the third, and in the bottom of the inning, Central took the lead with a clutch two-out rally and never looked back from there. 

After an opening strikeout and a flyout to left, catcher Kole McGlumphy [2-for-4] singled to center, at which point Jacob Mattox came in to run for him.

 Hernandez then doubled to left-center, scoring Mattox from first to tie the game at 2-2. Back-to-back wild pitches from Hower first advanced Hernandez to third, and then in to score for a 3-2 Central lead.

The fourth inning was uneventful, but come the bottom of the fifth, with a new pitcher inserted by North Gwinnett, Central put together a huge six-run stanza, again assisted by a key throwing error that scored two runs, this after Central had already strung together two hits and two walks to go up 4-2. 

That back-breaker of an error, the result of a sharp line drive off NG relief pitcher Cooper Chun's glove, which he preceded to pick up and airmail over the catcher's head, scored the hustling Cam Yeager and McGlumphy all the way from second to make it 6-2, and North Gwinnett's heads began to dip.

Yet another key error in that same fifth inning, this one by Pitts, came on a routine line drive at him that caromed off his glove and scored one more to make it 7-2. 

Central went on to add two more runs later in the inning when Chun couldn't find the zone over consecutive batters and walked in one run, then hit Yeager to send in yet another for that 9-2 advantage.

The victors added one more run in the sixth on a monster Hernandez solo shot to left to fill out the final score.

Holding down North Gwinnett, which came in with a record of 4-1 and had scored nine or more runs in four of their first five games, wasn't that big a surprise for McCollum's crew.

"You throw strikes and make high school kids swing the bat, you never know what you're going to get," he said. "They're a good program, well coached. We've had some tough luck so far this year, so maybe it was on our side today."

Central is a young team returning just one starter from last year's group that made a tremendous run to the Class 7A Final Four, and perhaps a night like this can help jump-start this new group.

"We got a lot of good pieces," McCollum said. "We're just trying to find our way, just one returning starter from last year. They're getting used to me, I'm getting used to them, trying to figure it out. And hopefully we figure it out before region starts."