North Forsyth coach Jim Cahill declined to comment after Friday’s game. He instead wanted to work on correcting what cost his team a victory against county rival Lambert — fielding errors.
The Raiders jumped out to an early four-run lead but were charged with seven errors over the final six innings, helping Lambert rally for a 7-6 victory in Coal Mountain.
After the game, Cahill and his assistant coaches hit infield grounders to the players until their bucket of baseballs was empty, then filled it back up and started all over again.
For Lambert coach Jamie Corr, another walk-off victory was just business as usual. All four of the Longhorns’ wins this season have come in the final at-bat.
“[It was] really a team effort, battling through a lot of demons and battling through a lot of failure,” Corr said. “I’m really proud of the guys for sticking with it and battling to the end.”
The game was originally supposed to take place at Lambert, but poor field conditions forced the coaches to instead play at North. The Longhorns remained the designated home team and batted last.
North jumped ahead in the top of the first after Lambert pitcher Chandler Register (1.2 IP, K, 3 H, 4 BB, HBP, 4 R) walked the first three batters he faced.
Bailey Mauldin scored on a ground out by Michael Henderson, and Michael Oldham crossed the plate thanks to the first of two Lambert errors in the game.
The Raiders doubled the lead to 4-0 in the second inning on RBI singles by Henderson and Nick Fernandez but left the bases loaded when Lambert reliever Brian Watson (5.1 IP, 5 K, 3 H, 2 BB, 0 ER, 2 R) got Alex Karriker to ground out to end the inning.
A half-inning later, North’s fielding troubles began to disrupt a solid start by pitcher Trevor Sams (6 IP, 8 K, 5 H, 3 HBP, 4 R, 2 ER).
Justin Reichling (2-for-3, 3B, 3 RBI, 2 R) was hit by a pitch in the bottom of the frame, advanced to second on an infield single by Jake Lucas and scored when the Raiders misplayed a grounder by Watson.
Lambert (4-1) further trimmed the lead to 4-3 in the bottom of the third on a two-run triple to deep right by Reichling, after Tanner Scroggins was hit by a pitch and Brock Maxwell reached on an infield single.
“Justin Reichling has really stepped into the limelight this year, and right now is carrying us offensively,” Corr said. “That’s a tribute to his work ethic.”
The Raiders got those two runs back in the top of the fourth when the Longhorns misplayed a routine, two-out fly ball off the bat of Karriker, but later gave one run back in similar fashion.
Maxwell reached on an error with two outs in the fifth and scored when the North outfield misplayed a long fly ball off the bat of Reichling.
Still trailing 6-4 going into the bottom of the seventh, the Longhorns got their first two runners on base via a leadoff single by Danny Edgeworth and a walk to Maxwell by North reliever Matthew Heard.
Reichling followed with a run-scoring single, but he was thrown out trying to take second on the throw to the plate.
One batter later, Lucas executed a perfect squeeze bunt down the first base line to score Maxwell, who raced toward the plate as Heard delivered the pitch.
The game appeared headed for extra innings when David Broadus dribbled a routine grounder across the infield toward third base, but it turned into the Raiders’ final error of the night. Watson came to the plate next, and Broadus stole second base to move into scoring position.
North again seemed to be out of the inning when Watson swung and barely grazed a two-strike pitch, but it turned into a controversial call. Fernandez made a low scoop before holding up the ball in his glove, but despite protests from Cahill and the North dugout, the umpire ruled that the foul-tip had hit the ground.
Watson turned on the next pitch and grounded it through the right side of the infield, allowing Broadus — running toward third on the play — to score the game-winning run.
“Brian Watson came up big for us today,” Corr said, “giving us a spark on the mound and then coming through at the end for a huge hit.”