MARIETTA — Upstart North Forsyth was putting the pressure on No. 6-ranked Lassiter before a pair of plays at the plate changed everything.
The Trojans broke open a tight Game 3 with big fifth and sixth innings to defeat the Raiders 10-3 in the opening round of the Class AAAAA state baseball playoffs on Saturday at Lassiter.
On a hot afternoon, both coaches took turns arguing with umpires, and security had to assert itself to calm down fired-up fans.
Tied 3-3 in the fifth inning, North threatened to take the lead on Michael Henderson’s sharp single up the middle. Cody Gottberg — pinch running for Nick Fernandez, who doubled — was waved home by coach Jim Cahill. Lassiter center fielder Jared Aarons fired a perfect throw to catcher Austin Rose, who tagged out Gottberg on a close play.
“We’re not going to string together a lot of hits,” said Cahill, “and in that spot in the order, I wanted to be aggressive and send him.”
Lassiter answered back in the bottom of the fifth, with Chris Heitzman beating a throw home on another close play. The Trojans scored twice more on a two-run single from Cornell Nixon (4-for-5, 4 RBI).
The momentum swings on the close plays appeared to demoralize the Raiders and hurt their focus. North committed six errors, with four coming in the last three innings.
The Trojans tacked on four more runs in the sixth — two coming on another clutch hit from Nixon, who redeemed himself after committing three of Lassiter’s eight errors in Friday’s Game 2 loss.
Lassiter (19-10) advanced to the second round of the playoffs for the fifth straight season and will host Harrison today.
Despite the disappointing ending for the Raiders (10-19), Cahill called the season a success — and one that exceeded expectations for a young roster that featured lots of new faces and only five seniors.
“Our seniors were hard workers and really did a good job helping the new and younger kids,” said Cahill. “We were a better team because of their efforts.”
Senior Kaulin Andric’s two-run double in the fourth scored Tyler Welch and senior Michael Oldham, giving the Raiders a 3-0 lead.
Fernandez, the Raiders’ senior catcher, went 3-for-4 with two doubles in the final game of his high school career.
Senior Cameron Benvenuto pinch hit in the seventh, but flied out to center.
Senior third baseman Trevor Sams had to leave the game in fourth inning with arm soreness. Sams pitched Game 2 on Friday.
Cahill said he is excited about what North has coming back next season, including freshman pitcher Matthew Heard.
The left-handed Heard started and allowed four runs in 5 1/3 innings, striking out seven with only one walk in a promising performance.