THE GRIND: Forsyth Central's Shaun Diebel
There might not have been a more anticipated season debut in the country.
But for the preseason No. 1 baseball team in the country, that debut had been delayed … and delayed … and delayed.
Finally given the chance to play Friday, the Longhorns looked like the nation’s top team in a 13-0 victory against Forsyth Central in five innings.
“We were anxious to get to play,” Lambert coach Drew Ferrer. “With the weather being the way it’s been, everyone was really anxious to get out here and get live at bats and see game speed. We’ve been in the gym the last seven days and Central did a great job getting the field together.”
The Longhorns’ pitching staff and defense looked strong in their first game. JD Dutka, Ben McCurley and Cole Varner combined to throw a one-hitter. Dutka started on the mound and looked sharp. The senior pitched three shutout innings on 29 pitches (21 strikes.) Dutka struck out three Bulldogs while not allowing any walks or hits.
“I was just trying to hit my spots,” Dutka said. “That was my first time out so I was just trying to get back in to it and let my defense work. They’re a bunch of studs out there.”
Dutka also led the Longhorns offensively as he reached base four times, drawing two walks, scoring three times and hitting a two-run home run in the top of the fourth inning.
“I usually sit on fastballs and he threw it in the spot I like so I let loose on it,” Dutka said.
McCurley pitched the fourth inning, striking out two hitters and walking one. Ferrer brought in Varner to close the game. Varner struck out two bulldogs.
“Pitching and defense were great tonight,” Ferrer said. “If we can play good defense and pitch like we did tonight I think we’ll be in good shape the rest of the season.”
The Longhorns’ hitting was just as good as their pitching. Shortstop Eric Furphy had a great night at the plate going 2 for 4 with a single and a double. Right fielder Seth Beer helped the team by earning four walks with a run scored. Will Dunavant went 1 for 3 at the plate but made the most of his only hit on a double that scored three runs in the second inning.
“The second inning we scored eight runs with two outs. That was great,” Ferrer said. “Glad to see that, but we left too many runners on base tonight so we do have some work to do there.”
Central (0-2) was looking to upset the Longhorns (1-0), but had tough luck on its home field.
The Bulldogs pitching staff struggled to find the strike zone and paid for it. The majority of Lamberts’ runs came with two outs, which frustrated coach McCollum. Parker Morrison started the game for the Bulldogs giving up six walks and striking out three in his two innings pitched. McCollum brought Logan Howard in relief. The senior pitched 1 2/3 innings and walked five and hit Lambert centerfielder Tucker Maxwell twice but had success by striking out four Longhorns in a row at one point. Ryu Head pitched the final inning for the Bulldogs. Head looked good as he only allowed one run in his effort to stop the bleeding.
“It’s frustrating when you play a good team and you come out a little scared,” McCollum said. “You have to grab the bull by the horns and we weren’t able to do that tonight.”
Central was able to put the bat on the ball, as the team only stuck out seven times, but the Bulldogs couldn’t find holes in the defense. Outfielder Parker Biederer had the team’s lone hit on an infield single up the middle. The Bulldogs left four runners on base, while looking for the timely hit that never came.
“It’s early. It’s only the second game of the season,” McCollum said. “We have to get out there tomorrow and get back on the field and try to improve each and every day.”
Central looks to regain focus as they travel to Hebron Christian for their next game. Lambert aims to continue their quest for another state title run when they play Etowah.