One more win.
That was all Forsyth Central needed against Creekview Wednesday night to clinch its first region championship in 18 years.
The wait continued into well past dusk. Momentum shifted, tempers flared, fans held their breath and some players even took some time to scratch their heads, but at 9:05 p.m. ET, 3 hours 10 minutes after first pitch, the Bulldogs finally dogpiled in the infield to celebrate the title with a 15-9 win over the Grizzlies.
Central defeated Creekview Tuesday 6-5, setting up the chance to decide the championship at home. The victory gave the Bulldogs the Region 7-AAAAA title, the program’s first since current West Forsyth coach Mike Pruitt won it with the Bulldogs in 1997.
“I know Central has had some good teams in the 90s, but hey, we will take it. It's been a long time coming for this school and this group of kids,” Central coach Kevin McCollum said after receiving the celebratory ice bath.
Central (15-6, 14-3) took a 6-0 lead in the bottom of the first inning, as Taylor Bauman set the tone with a leadoff home run in his first at-bat. Two more runs walked in on bases-loaded green lights from Creekview pitcher Michael Chiavelli and Parker Morrison singled to bring a runner home before Bauman returned to the plate in the first and knocked a two-RBI single.
That lead blossomed to 10-1 after three innings, but Creekview battled back with patience at the plate in the top of the fourth and fifth innings, making the score 10-9.
The Grizzlies would have tied the game had Josh Bennett not been thrown out stealing home. That was the moment McCollum got his guys fired up with an intense mid-inning pep talk.
Morrison answered coach's wishes, knocking a three-run home run in the bottom of the fifth to give Central a 14-9 advantage.
“It was a crazy game. A lot happened,” McCollum said. “The best I can say is that the kids battled. We jumped out to a big lead, but in playoff atmosphere, I guess you would say, nobody is out until you put them away. Good teams like Creekview are going to keep fighting. They put the pressure back on us, but the kids responded.”
Bauman scored once more in the bottom of the sixth to add insurance, coming home off a single from Josh Meese. Bauman finished 3 for 3 at the plate with a home run, three RBIs and three runs scored.
Morrison went 2 for 2 with a home run, a run scored and four RBIs, while also putting in 2 2/3 innings on the mound, allowing just one hit. Starting pitcher Logan Howard lasted 3 1/3 innings, allowing five hits, issuing seven walks against four strikeouts.
The game's length had much to do with 18 total walks and multiple stoppages of play that included Howard being told to adjust his feet on the mound, fans being told to turn off their car lights in left field and the removal of a heckling fan in attendance.
Central also scored three runs off a dropped ball in deep left-center field when Creekview center fielder Cam Collett hit his head attempting to field a fly ball at the fence from Morrison. Collett was carted off the field with an apparent head injury.
The two teams will play Friday night in the third game of the series.