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Baseball: Ackerman's gem, Triche's homer lead North past Lambert, 3-2
North Forsyth senior Coby Hunt celebrates while rounding third base after Tyler Triche's two-run home run during Monday's 3-2 win against Lambert. - photo by David Roberts

Michael Sills is used to saving games on the mound.

On Monday, he helped do it from the right-field grass.

In the third inning of a showdown between Lambert and North Forsyth, Sills picked up Jack Stewart's ground-ball single and fired a dart to home plate. Hayden Brown caught the ball, wrapped around to the left and snared Nate Dvorsky at home to keep Lambert off the board.

The play loomed larger in the later innings, as the Longhorns scored a pair of seventh-inning runs to cut North's lead to one run. Brett Barfield entered the game with two outs in the seventh, and after a single to Parker Brosius, he got Justin Haskins to ground out to Casen Blackburn to halt Lambert's comeback attempt and hand the Raiders a 3-2 win.

"I think Sills has the best arm in our region. I would have to say that," North senior Jess Ackerman said. "That was an unbelievable throw."

Some might contend the best arm in the region belongs to Ackerman, though, especially after the Raiders' ace struck out 12 batters and limited Lambert to two runs — one earned — across 6 2/3 innings in the win.

Ackerman struck out four of the first five batters he faced, including his counterpart, Colin Linder, on a wicked curveball on the outside corner of the plate.

"He's been great down the stretch," North coach Jim Cahill said. "I don't think there's a been a better pitcher in the region all year. He's just been real consistent and done a great job for us. Every time he goes out there, we know we have a chance to win, and that's huge."

Ackerman allowed a two-out double to Jonny Smith in the second inning, then walked back-to-back batters with two outs in the fourth inning, but each time Ackerman buckled down and got the out to end the inning.

Ackerman relishes opportunities to pitch in high-pressure games and is thankful Cahill is confident in him.

"It just shows that he has his trust in me, and that's really important as a pitcher to have, because I can go out there and do my thing if I know everyone has my back," Ackerman said.

Linder, meanwhile, was just as impressive through the first five innings.

Lambert's ace fanned 15 batters and recorded 10 of the Longhorns' first 12 outs via strikeout. 

It wasn't until Ackerman's ground-ball single up the middle in the fourth that North had its first baserunner. Ackerman stole second to put himself in scoring position, but Linder replied with a pair of strikeouts on seven total pitches. 

North finally broke through in the top of the sixth. Coby Hunt drew a leadoff walk, then stole second base to give North a runner in scoring position with nobody out. 

Tyler Triche fought through a seven-pitch at-bat — fouling off four pitches — before launching a go-ahead home run over the left-field wall. 

Ackerman reached on an error, and after an Andrew Elkhill single moved him to third base, Ackerman scored what proved to be the game-winning run on a wild pitch.

Lambert mounted a two-out rally in the seventh, finally chasing Ackerman after a pair of strikeouts, a walk and a single to open the frame. 

Jack Stewart's single to center was misplayed, allowing Jack Schaffer to score from second and Stewart to come all the way home. 

Barfield needed only five pitches to pick up the save.

The win knocks Lambert a half game out of first place with one game left for the Longhorns. 

Lambert (17-12, 10-7 Region 6-7A) will travel to Forsyth Central at 6:15 p.m. Wednesday. North (17-12, 10-7 Region 6-7A) is tied with Lambert for second place -- a half game behind Denmark -- though the Longhorns hold the tiebreaker against the Raiders after winning two of three games against North.

North will wrap up its regular season at 6:15 p.m. Friday at South Forsyth.