North Forsyth baseball head coach Jim Cahill makes a point to downplay the significance of his team's non-region performance, going so far as to refer to those games as "the preseason." But North did so well in that 12-game stretch this year -- winning 11, including one over a nationally-ranked Woodstock team -- that the Raiders couldn't help but see their confidence rise.
The competition in Region 5-7A this year can take a needle to any inflated sense of security, though. The Raiders dropped their first two region games against South, coming a strike away from being no-hit by Landon Sims in the first loss.
"After Tuesday, when we almost got no-hit, it was a little bit of a reality check," Raiders catcher Colin Sanders said.
But since then, the Raiders have reminded the rest of the region that they're one of the top contenders for first place, given that they return the vast majority of contributors from last season. North has now won three straight region games, with Wednesday's 7-1 win over West being the latest.
North has shown the capacity for overwhelming offense this year, as the 15 runs they hung on the Wolverines in the previous night's game was the Raiders' third double-digit scoring total. Wednesday's tally was more modest and more opportunistic, as North did it with just seven hits and one error from the Wolverines. Seven Raiders reached via walk, though, and Sanders contributed to four of those runs himself, driving in two with a single in the first inning and two more with a double in the sixth.
"I'd rather see a seven-run, seven-hit game than a 15-hit, one-run game," Cahill said.
Raiders righthander Brody Westbrooks kept North (14-3, 3-2 Region 5-7A) comfortably in front, carving up the Wolverines (6-10, 1-4) with excellent location and crafty pitch selection. Each of the five strikeouts that the Georgia Tech commit recorded came on called third strikes.
Sanders considered a few reasons for the Raiders' brief lull to start the region schedule: the high-quality arms they faced, or their hitters trying to do too much.
However, Wednesday night confirmed what much of the region knew was coming eventually: North is back, and the Raiders might get even better.
"Hopefully, we're not playing our best baseball right now," Cahill said. "But we are playing pretty well."