Even when plays didn’t unfold the way Lambert head coach Jamie Corr intended, somehow they still worked together to aid the Longhorns’ comeback.
Billy Whitlock never heard Corr yelling for him to ask the umpire for time at the plate, but the communication failure mattered little seconds later when Lambert was celebrating on the field.
Whitlock stayed in the batters box but pulled back his bunt attempt in the bottom of the seventh, resulting in a passed ball that allowed Jeremy Johnson to race home from third and give the Longhorns a 4-3 comeback victory over rival South Forsyth on Friday at Lambert.
South (5-7, 0-2 Region 6-AAAAAA) carried a 3-0 lead into the bottom of the sixth behind starting pitcher Zack McCrum (6+ IP, 6K, 4 R, 5 H, 5 BB), who limited the Longhorns (8-2, 2-0) to just two hits through the first five innings.
"We definitely stole a game right there from Zack McCrum," Corr said. "That was [about] as dominant a performance as you can have on the mound.
"The mode of this team [from] its inception has been never say die. It looks like that’s just going to go ahead and continue this year."
The War Eagles fell to 0-3 all-time on the Lambert campus — a mark that includes another narrow loss, 3-2 in extra innings, during their first visit in 2011.
"It seems like the vast majority of the time we come [to this field] I’m very content with the effort we put in," South head coach Russ Bayer said, "but for some weird reason things can’t really fall into place for us."
Lambert’s rally began in the bottom of the sixth with a one-out double by Brock Maxwell (2-for-2). Whitlock then drew a walk before Jake Chickowski (2-for-2) drove in Maxwell with a single to right field. Eric Furphy followed with a sacrifice fly to left to cut the lead to 3-2, but McCrum struck out Tucker Maxwell to end the inning.
McCrum stayed on the mound for the start of the seventh inning but issued a four-pitch walk to Trey Logan and fell behind Johnson 2-0. Johnson tried to bunt on a 3-1 pitch but fouled the ball off for the second strike and forced Corr to take the bunt off.
The miscue worked to the Lambert’s benefit, as Johnson lined the next pitch into right-center. Logan advanced all the way to third and Johnson wound up at second to put the tying and winning runs in scoring position with nobody out.
"Trey did a good job of setting the table in that last inning [by] drawing the leadoff walk," Corr said. "and Jeremy came through with a big two-strike hit to get him to third."
Left-hander Sammy Walker relieved McCrum but gave up an RBI single to Danny Edgeworth through the left side of the infield to tie the game 3-3.
Walker struck out Ian Kimbrell and intentionally walked Brock Maxwell before his first pitch to Whitlock was ruled a passed ball.
Bayer thought Whitlock fouled-tipped the ball but had little chance to protest as the umpires left the field.
"When he pulled [the bat] back we thought he fouled the ball off, especially considering it sped up as soon as it got to the plate," Bayer said.
"Usually that would [mean] it made contact with something, but they were quick to make the decision and get out of there, so we really didn’t even have an attempt to appeal on it. Coach Corr even asked me if I wanted to [appeal] ... out of courtesy, which I attempted to do, but they didn’t allow it to happen."
Edgeworth, the last of four pitchers for Lambert, earned the win on the mound.
South jumped out to a 1-0 lead in the second inning when Michael Strait singled off Lambert starter Dylan Biumi and later scored on a fielding error by Edgeworth at third base.
The War Eagles tacked on their second run via a throwing error by Logan in the third, and Strait increased the lead to 3-0 later in the inning with an RBI double.
Biumi exited after 3 2/3 innings, but Lambert relievers Harrison Lee and Thomas Reddin combined with Edgeworth to keep the War Eagles from adding to their lead the rest of the way.
"Biumi definitely had a quality start and had some tough luck early, but minimized the damage and kept us in it until the fourth," Corr said. "Then [it was] an outstanding job by our middle relievers in Harrison Lee and Thomas Reddin to put up two zeroes and turned it over to Danny, who picks the cheap win."