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Baseball: Ryan's eight-inning effort leads Central over West
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Forsyth Central's Jacob Ryan delivers a pitch during the Bulldogs' game against West Forsyth on March 22, 2019 at West Forsyth High School. - photo by Ian Frazer

It wasn’t even that Jacob Ryan was feeling particularly great. The Forsyth Central senior pitcher freely volunteered that he was not at his best during his start on Friday at West Forsyth: His pitches were effective, and he got through six innings with just five hits allowed, but he was dissatisfied with his command.

Ryan entered the bottom of the seventh with a 3-1 lead, but three West singles let the Wolverines tie the game and force extra innings. Ryan had thrown 99 pitches at that point, and the Bulldogs were ready to go to a reliever, but he talked Central’s coaches into staying in. It was almost a matter of principle.

“I gave up two runs in the inning before – I wanted to show that that’s not me,” Ryan said. “I wanted to win the game for us.”

To start the eighth, Ryan almost pitched himself out of the game. His first two pitches almost hit Brock Imbornone, and while that batter eventually flew out, Ryan’s next pitch nailed Drew Southern. Those were the last hiccups, though, as Ryan proceeded to strike out Miller Jones and Barrett Roland to end the game, giving the Bulldogs a 5-3 win and improving their record to 8-6 overall 4-3 in Region 5-7A, a spot behind first-place Milton.

“They’re a fairly inexperienced group, and we’re trying to find our way,” Central head coach Kevin McCollum said. “Some days we do some things good, some things not so good. We’ve been in just about every game, and I guess when you have some decent pitching, it gives you a chance to be in there

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West Forsyth's Drew Southern throws to home plate during the Wolverines' game against Forsyth Central on March 22, 2019 at West Forsyth High School. - photo by Ian Frazer
Central very well might have underachieved in its run production on Friday: The Bulldogs had 13 hits, two walks, and a hit batter. They got their first three runs in small-ball fashion: An RBI groundout and mishandled grounder in the first inning, and a passed ball on a walk in the third, putting them up 3-0. The manner in which those runs came about was particularly frustrating to West head coach Mike Pruitt.

“I just told our coaches: We are the nicest team in the region, because we give so much,” Pruitt said. “But yet when someone tries to give it to us, we don’t take it. And it’s just frustrating that we’re not doing the little things, the ABC things of baseball, (like) catching and throwing.”

The Wolverines did climb back in it, but Central responded quickly in the eighth. West pitcher Luke Cartenuto, who had the game-tying single in the seventh, hit Brady Hall to begin the inning, and after the Bulldogs loaded the bases with two outs, Chase Hillenbrand and A.J. Fiechter each singled a run in.

That gave Ryan the opportunity to come out and finish his outing on a more positive note.

“That’s the one thing about Jacob,” McCollum said. “He’ll gut through it and battle through it, which he did tonight, and made some pitches when he needed to make them.”

West fell to 6-9 and 2-5 in region play with the loss.