It didn’t take long for some of the new faces in Lambert’s starting lineup to make an impact.
Junior catcher Billy Whitlock drove in four runs and sophomore outfielder Jeremy Johnson scored three as the Longhorns opened the season with a 7-2 victory over Forsyth Central on Wednesday at the Bulldogs’ field.
Lambert (1-0) led 1-0 in the top of the fourth inning when Whitlock (2-for-3) lined a 1-2 pitch from Central left-hander Andrew Gist (4 IP, 5 K, 3 R, 5 H, 3 BB) into the gap in right-center for a two-run double. Whitlock’s hit provided all the offense the Longhorns would ultimately need behind five scoreless innings from senior right-hander Joe Vonderschmidt (5 IP, 7 K, 0 R, 5 H, 2 BB), who got the start on the mound.
"Billy [stepped] in and really did a good job behind the plate tonight with a big double," Lambert head coach Jamie Corr said.
"When you lose some key [players to graduation] you need some young guys to step up and we saw that tonight with Jeremy coming through with a big clutch hit and [Eric] Furphy, only a sophomore but coming through as well."
Johnson (2-for-3, 2B, RBI, 3 RS, SB) singled in the second inning and later scored on an infield single by Nick Guimbarda (2-for-3, RBI, SB) to put Lambert on top. Central (1-1) put runners in scoring position in the second and third innings with the help of a pair of Lambert errors, but Vonderschmidt worked out of trouble both times.
"[I] couldn’t ask for anything else [tonight] from Joe but to ... pound the [strike] zone and basically just induce ground ball after ground ball, fly ball, really forcing contact and letting his defense work him," Corr said.
Whitlock’s double in the fourth gave the Longhorns a pair of insurance runs and Johnson added another in the fifth after he drew a two-out walk from reliever Jordan Woodard (3 IP, 3 K, 3 R, 3 H, 3 BB), stole second base and scored on a single by Furphy to increase Lambert’s lead to 4-0.
Central finally got on the scoreboard in the bottom of the sixth when Taylor Bauman delivered a bloop RBI single just inside the right field line off reliever Clay Crosby (1 IP, 2 K, 1 R, H, 2 BB), but the inning ended with two more runners stranded in scoring position.
The Bulldogs left 12 runners stranded on base during the game, two days after having no trouble reaching home plate in an 11-1 victory over South Forsyth.
"[Lambert] did a good job of keeping our leadoff guy [from getting on base]," Central head coach Kevin McCollum said.
"Anytime we threatened it was with two outs for the most part and we didn’t come up with the big hit. Vonderschmidt ... did a pretty good job, kept us off balance and threw strikes."
Johnson came through for Lambert again in the top of the seventh with an RBI double to deep left field. Two batters later, Whitlock added a two-out RBI single up the middle.
"We did a good job today with two-out RBIs," Corr said. "Two-out RBIs win games and we had three right there [tonight]."
Central added its other run in the bottom of the inning when Jake Nix reached base with a double and later scored on a double by Miller Cone.
Central will travel to North Forsyth on Monday while Lambert hosts Peachtree Ridge.