By Steven Watkins
For the Forsyth County News
In the bottom of the seventh inning and for the second time of Tuesday night’s makeup baseball game between North Forsyth and South Forsyth, the stubborn early-spring rain that’s already done a fair share of reshuffling to the 2019 schedule once again found its way to the Raiders' field.
With two away on a 2-1 count and with a two-run-lead, North left-handed pitcher Anthony DiMola toed the increasingly-slick rubber and looked to finish off a complete-game gem against the only South batter with a hit on the evening.
South junior Chris Dougherty adjusted the dirt in the right-handed batter’s box and looked to follow up a second-inning single—a one-hop, line-drive to right field—that narrowly missed plating the first run of the evening thanks to a sharp, accurate throw to the plate by North’s Charlie Alken.
DiMola got his sign, wound and delivered his 115th pitch of the evening: a fastball that Dougherty rolled over and sent one-hopping to the edge of the infield dirt on a high, looping bounce. The throw to first narrowly beat both Dougherty and the rain, as both the clouds and the North dugout began emptying onto the field following the 2-0 win Raiders.
DiMola struggled early with his command, walking two batters, hitting a third and balking a runner into scoring position, all within his first two frames. With the bases loaded and two outs in the bottom of the second, the turning point came in the form of a meeting on the mound with North head coach Jim Cahil and the entirety of the Raider infield. On the first pitch of his at-bat, South catcher Colby Wheeler flied out to deep left, stranding three runners and providing DiMola with the out he desperately needed.
“In the first and second innings, I wasn’t feeling my fastball at all,” DiMola said. “It was slipping out of my hand and just wasn’t going where I wanted to throw it. In the third, fourth and on I was hitting my spots better.”
For the final five innings, DiMola walked only a single batter, with a second one reaching on an error. He finished his night with four walks, six strikeouts and a solitary hit.
“He did outstanding,” Cahil said on his starter’s performance. “He did a good job controlling the damage and he really buckled down when they got some guys on.”
For the War Eagles, pitcher Peyton Presley’s two-run, 10-hit final line was a bit misleading, considering he also pitched the full seven innings and did so without walking a single batter and surrendering only one earned run. The difference was made on a pair of timely at-bats midway through the evening.
With one out in the bottom of the third and runners at the corners, North sophomore Holton Payne sent his Presley’s first pitch slicing deep to left field, allowing Carter Mullikin plenty of time to tag-up and score the first run of the evening.
The following inning, after battling his way to a full count, junior Miles Hartsfield lined a single to right field and scored Aiken, who had reached earlier in the inning on an error.
With his command returning and the confidence that comes with a two-run cushion, DiMola went straight at the remaining hitters he faced, pounding the strike zone with increasing regularity.
“Coaches always tell us to just throw strikes when you have a lead and let them hit it,” he said. “Let the defense do the work. That’s what I tried to do, and it worked out.”
Mullikin led the North offense going a perfect 3-for-3 with a run scored, while Garrett Staton added a pair of knocks.
The Raiders improved to 11-7 overall and 5-3 in the region. South fell to 7-10, 1-7.