Lambert capped off a late-season charge with a 7-1 victory over North Forsyth on Friday and will head into the Class 6A baseball state tournament as the No. 2 seed out of Region 6.
The Longhorns have reached the state playoffs in each of the program’s first four seasons.
No. 4-ranked Lambert (17-8, 9-5 Region 6-AAAAAA) won three of its last four region games this season, including an 11-10 victory over region champion Johns Creek on Thursday in extra innings, and benefitted from West Forsyth’s loss to Alpharetta on Friday to move into the second spot.
The Longhorns will host North Gwinnett, the third seed out of Region 7, in the first round of the state playoffs. Lambert last hosted a playoff series in 2011.
As an added bonus, the Longhorns might get their most-talented arm back for the playoffs.
Senior right-hander Joe Vonderschmidt went the distance in an efficient performance against North Forsyth. Vonderschmidt recorded 12 ground-ball outs, several of those coming on impressive plays by the left side of the Longhorns’ infield. Third baseman Danny Edgeworth and shortstop Trey Logan each bare-handed tough grounders for outs.
Vonderschmidt didn’t walk a batter and struck out four. Vonderschmidt and Dylan Biumi will anchor the Longhorns’ postseason rotation, but Brock Maxwell’s potential return to the mound could be the key to a playoff run, head coach Jamie Corr said.
A 2011 high school All-American as a sophomore, Maxwell injured his right shoulder diving for a ball in a scrimmage against Gainesville and has not been a factor on the mound for the Longhorns in his senior season. But that could change in the playoffs.
"He’s our No. 1," said Corr. "We’re trying to get him back healthy. If that happens, it vastly improves our pitching staff."
Maxwell, who has signed with South Carolina, said his shoulder is back to 100 percent. But Corr remains uncertain about how he’ll use Maxwell in the postseason.
Freshman Tucker Maxwell, Brock’s brother, had an RBI double in a three-run second inning for Lambert. Lambert tacked on a run in the third on Ian Kimbrell’s RBI single and then took command with a three-run fifth inning, highlighted by a Kimbrell RBI double.
North Forsyth’s season came apart down the stretch. The Raiders (12-14, 5-9 Region 6-AAAAAA) won five straight games in early April to get into playoff contention, but North lost its last six games and was eliminated from the playoffs on Thursday in a wild 12-10 loss to West Forsyth.
Senior Michael Henderson started Friday for North and allowed four runs on four in hits in four innings. He also had two hits, including a double. Seniors Tyler Welch and Tony Papale also had hits for the Raiders.
Brant Stark had a double and scored the Raiders’ run on a botched rundown.
Seniors Nick Aiken, Justin Stanley, Chris Vincent and Conor Pennington also completed their North Forsyth careers.
"Great group of high-character kids that I’m proud to have had call me coach for the last four years," North Forsyth coach Jim Cahill said of his seven seniors.
"The seniors and the senior parents definitely left their mark on this program. I really hope some of the freshmen and sophomores that spent time on the varsity this season learned some things from these seniors."