The message that North Forsyth catcher Collin Sanders gave Tyler Fairchild during a bases-loaded jam in the sixth inning was obvious: Focus and get an out. Well, there might have been more to it.
“I forgot,” Fairchild said after the game.
That would be understandable: Fairchild had to work through a lot in his start on Wednesday against West, which had as much drama as could possibly fit into a one-run performance. In his six innings of work, Fairchild surrendered multiple hits in four frames, left multiple men on base in five – leaving the bases loaded three times – and set West down in order just once, in the second.
He wiggled out of one last time in the sixth, when the Wolverines had three men on with three-hole hitter Hank Flood up.
After two quick strikes and a foul, Fairchild forced a pop-up to shallow right, which North second baseman Garrett Staton snagged. That preserved the Raiders’ one-run lead, and one inning and insurance run later, they wrapped up a 3-1 win, their first in Region 5-7A play this year.
“It was very stressful,” Fairchild said of his outing.
The junior lefthander never let West break through, though. He didn’t give up any extra-base hits, regularly showed the Wolverines off-speed pitches and kept the ball low. When West loaded the bases in the first inning, Fairchild induced a 6-4-3 double play.
In the fourth inning, with the bases loaded and two outs, he got Indiana Stanley to harmlessly fly out to left. And in the fifth, with men on second and third with one down, Fairchild let one run score on a wild pitch but got a strikeout and groundout to leave Flood at third base and preserve North’s lead.
“He’s pretty tough,” Raiders head coach Jim Cahill said of Fairchild. “When he throws three pitches for strikes, he’s very effective. Tonight, he didn’t have his best stuff but was able to work through that.”
The Raiders offense gave Fairchild just enough room. Sanders drove Tyler Sheley home in the first with a sacrifice fly, and Staton’s RBI double in the fourth expanded North’s lead to two.
Another RBI double, from Carter Mullikin, put Raiders’ lead back at two in the top of the seventh. Fairchild’s night was done by then, and Caelan Thomas worked around a one-out single to retire West (8-9, 2-3) in the bottom of the frame.
North (8-9, 1-4) began its region schedule on a skid, getting shut out twice and coming out on the wrong end of an 11-6 slugfest against South Forsyth. The Raiders have time for a turnaround, though, and Cahill is confident in their chances of doing it.
“I’ve had confidence in my kids from day one,” Cahill said. “Even though we’d lost the first couple region games, we’ve still fought and played hard. We ran into some pretty good pitching, but our kids don’t quit. They’re pretty tough, they play with a little bit of grit, and if they keep playing like this, we’re going to win a lot more games.”