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North Forsyth’s baseball team has a lefty problem.
Not so much a problem for the Raiders – more of a problem for any opposing lineup facing North Forsyth’s five left-handed pitchers this season.
There’s reigning Forsyth County News Pitcher of the Year Anthony DiMola, promising sophomore Brett Barfield, junior Jess Ackerman and his two-seam fastball, long reliever Noah Gilbert and Kennesaw State signee Garrett Sagro, who is expected to contribute, too.
“I think we need to get those kindergarten teachers to start making them write left-handed,” Cahill joked.
DiMola was 6-2 last year with a 1.41 ERA and 84 strikeouts through 64 2/3 innings.
“We could have three lefties every week starting Monday, Wednesday, Friday,” DiMola said. “Me, Jess and Brett. Then we’ve got Sagro out of the bullpen.”
DiMola, who signed to play at Georgia Southern, will be the Raiders’ ace this season.
“He dominates on the mound. Just a bulldog,” Cahill said. “Last year, he’s one of the reasons we had a good run in the playoffs. He gave us a pretty good chance to beat Parkview. He’s been pretty good the last couple years.”
Assistant coach Chris Brown recalls DiMola as a sophomore, when the North Forsyth pitcher was a “short, lefty kind of kid sitting upper 70s.”
Even then, Brown remembers being impressed by DiMola’s demeanor on the mound and his command of the strike zone.
“He’s just blossomed from that,” Brown said. “He’s still the same kid that you see, but you add (velocity) and you add a bit of extra stuff to it. He makes my job really easy one day a week, which is really awesome.”
It wasn’t long ago that Brown was part of Cahill’s pitching staff. He graduated from North Forsyth in 2011, then spent some time at Forsyth Central, where he coached the freshman team and assisted with the varsity pitchers.
But a few years ago, he got the call from his former coach.
“Jim Cahill called and said, ‘Come do it for us,’ so I just stepped right into it,” Brown said. “It’s really awesome just to come full circle and see the changes and see the culture’s still there. We always had a good, deep passion for winning here. Kids are buying into it, which is awesome.”
Brown was a right-handed pitcher during his time, so instructing a large group of lefties is somewhat uncharted territory for him.
“We’re lefty loaded, which I can say I’ve never had that problem – I guess if it’s a problem,” Brown said. “With Anthony being our one, and Jess Ackerman and Brett Barfield are both lefties. I guess Brett’s the newcomer of the group with the returning staff. He’s kind of like Anthony in the way of he commands respect and his presence on the mound is just domineering, in a way.”
Barfield enters the 2020 season with high expectations after committing to Florida State during the offseason.
He played sparingly as a freshman but figures to see an increase in varsity innings this year.
“He’s got one of the best curveballs I’ve ever seen, honestly, at the high school level,” DiMola said. “Nobody can hit it, especially on our team when we do intrasquads and stuff. Good fastball, too. He’s gained a lot of (velocity). He’s still a sophomore, so I think he’s going to be big time.”
North Forsyth has experience in the field, too, led by seniors Miles Hartsfield and Garrett Staton.
Hartsfield hit .288 last year with 12 doubles, three home runs and a team-high 16 walks. Staton finished with a .354 batting average, socking two home runs and a triple.
“Those lefties are definitely going to be a big part of it. Those lefties, then definitely some of the seniors that we have in the field – Miles and Garrett – that have been playing on varsity since their freshman year,” Cahill said.
Cahill also expects several underclassmen to contribute, including freshman Cason Engert and sophomore Baylor Homesley.
North Forsyth’s underclassmen could play a role in pushing the Raiders over the edge in an already competitive Region 5-7A.
“Our region is so tough top to bottom,” Cahill said. “Every game is a dog fight. There’s no easy games during the week.”