Forsyth Central got its first hit in its final chance at the plate, but at that point the Bulldogs' big early-season sweep of Region 7-AAAAA rival Cambridge already seemed eminent.
Remarkably the Bulldogs (5-1, 3-0) already led 6-2 when they went to the plate in the final frame despite going through the previous five innings without any offensive production other than walks and hit batters. They had 16 baserunners translate into three runs in the first, two in the fourth and one more in the fifth. Central held on to defeat the Bears 7-3 on Friday night, finishing with two total hits and four errors.
Taylor Bauman singled, and his brother Hunter doubled right after to record the RBI, and Central got out of the final frame to defeat the Bears (2-3, 0-3) for the third time in a week.
Central head coach Kevin McCollum got the result he wanted—a statement sweep—but he admitted the third game was still a little bizarre.
“I've been around baseball a long time and seen a lot of crazy stuff, but that was crazy tonight,” McCollum said. “They gave us a lot of free passes I'd say with the walks and hit batters, but we left some guys on so we have to focus on the pitches we do get to hit and capitalize on those.”
Robbie Repasz and Parker Biederer scored off a balk and a hit-by-pitch, respectively, in the first inning before Hunter Bauman scored off a SAC fly courtesy of Luke Sutko.
Cambridge did damage in the top of the fourth, scoring off two second-basemen errors to make it 3-2, but Central responded in the bottom of the inning off a fielder's choise and a wild pitch, with Wade Smith and Connor Tinkle making the score 5-2.
Pierce Nufer scored off a SAC from Tinkle in the bottom of the fifth for Central's final run until the Bauman brothers added insurance two innings later.
Cambridge's starting pitcher Michael Viafora was pulled before he could finish the first inning after hitting two batters and walking three, leading to his relief from Hayden Onorato. Onorato held the no-hitter through four frames, striking out three and walking four, and his relief—Same Waylock—entered and pitched a no-hit frame before finally giving up a hit in the seventh.
Overshadowed by the far fetched offensive output was the performance of starting pitcher Ryan Cox. It's still early in the season, and McCollum is still searching for his third pitcher behind veteran senior Parker Morrison and Vanderbilt-bound sophomore Ethan Hankins.
Cox finished allowing six hits, three walks and struck out five batters through 6 and 1/3 innings, while Ryu Head entered after Cox allowed a single in the final frame to strike out two batters and finish the contest.
Both of Cambrdige's runs came from fielding errors.
“I thought (Ryan) did a good job,” McCollum said. “He was a little erratic there in the first two innings. It could have been nerves or chill in the air, but he throws strikes and mixes pitches well, so he's going to be good for us.”
Central's sweep of the Bears was big for its players, who spoke about them as one of the two teams that would contend with them for the division title this season—the other being Kell.
For McCollum, the label on the opponent's hat was of little significance.
“No doubt a good start, but there's a lot of things to improve on. It's a long season so we have to keep working and stay focused, take things series by series and see what happens,” McCollum said.