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Central baseball outlasts Kell in 12 innings for region win
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Central senior Michael Branigan caught all 12 innings of the Bulldogs' victory Thursday plus went 5-for-6 with a walk and three RBIs at the plate. - photo by Brian Paglia

In a game between two evenly-matched opponents, the team that comes out on top will often be the one that can capitalize on the other’s mistakes. The Forsyth Central baseball club learned that the hard way last week, falling to Sequoyah in a grueling 10-inning contest.

However, a 12th-inning outburst by the Bulldogs on Thursday, in which they executed when it truly mattered most, gave them the leg up they needed against a tough Kell squad.

That rally, which was bolstered by two walks and several Kell miscues, sealed a much-needed 11-6 victory for Central, completing a season sweep over the Longhorns.

“Sometimes we have a little trouble executing, but we executed a little better than they did today,” said Central head coach Kevin McCollum. “You definitely don’t want to play that long and lose.”

The late rally got started when Spencer Patterson and Logan Howard walked in consecutive at bats. After a fly-out, Taylor Bauman slapped a bloop single to right field, scoring Patterson. A double by Parker Biederer plated Bauman, and a single up the middle from Michael Branigan scored Patterson, while an error on that play brought home Biederer.

All of those runs were scored with two outs.

“It makes it so all that hard work was really worth it throughout the entire game,” said Branigan. “A win is always rewarding, but one like this when you play almost two games is even more so.”

Prior to that offensive surge, the two teams had been trading leads all day with no lead or deficit greater than one run. Ultimately, Kell’s sloppiness proved to be the difference, as the Longhorns committed five errors to Central’s one.

Branigan was one of the key cogs in the Bulldogs’ victory. The senior caught behind the plate the entire day. He went 5-fot-6, tallying a team-high three RBIs and a walk in the process.

Biederer chipped in four hits, while Taylor Bauman, Hunter Bauman, Jeffery Rous and Howard added two each.

“I felt really good, definitely hit the ball well,” Branigan said. “I was feeling really good at the plate and saw the ball well.”

The Bulldogs only needed three pitchers throughout this extended one—a testament to the performances of starter Reed Clark, who threw 4 2/3 innings and reliever Parker Morrison, who tossed 6 1/3.

Chase Patterson came in for the final inning and sealed the victory for Central by generating three straight outs.

In total, Central pitchers surrendered just four earned runs and struck out eight.

“Reed threw pretty well,” said McCollum. “Parker had an outing like that before, so he knew what he was doing. Then we brought Chase in, and he did a good job closing it out.”

While the Bulldogs certainly didn’t want to play for roughly four hours, winning after such a taxing day made the triumph that much sweeter. With a key match-up against Sprayberry on Saturday and what should be a competitive fight in Region 7-AAAAA on the horizon, building that added momentum could be highly beneficial down the stretch.

“The more the kids hang around together, the more success they have together,” said McCollum. “Games like this, they build team chemistry in a positive way. It should help move us along.”

“This shows a lot of growth,” added Branigan. “In the past, we’ve been there, but we haven’t gotten all the way. Now that we’re able to take advantage of big situations, it’s exciting.”