By Steven Watkins
For the Forsyth County News
It’s a common expression in baseball (and in sports in general, for that matter) that “good teams find a way to win.” With a 10-1 victory at West Forsyth High School on Wednesday night, the North Forsyth baseball team found a way to do it for the fifth consecutive time.
The Raiders have found a variety of ways to emerge victorious throughout the season, and through the current winning streak in particular. They’ve had nights where the bats were red-hot while the pitching struggled. They’ve seen games where runs came at a premium, yet didn’t come at all for their opponent.
In the first of a two-game matchup with the Wolverines leading into spring break, what worked, in short, was everything.
As he’s done in previous starts, North starter Brody Westbrooks took a sluggish first inning before settling in, giving up one run on two hits. As he’s also done in previous starts, he proceeded to follow the sole run that he surrendered with an absolute gem, this time to the tune of two hits and two walks through seven complete innings while striking out six batters.
“The first inning, I was just settling in,” Westbrooks said. “It’s usually the inning I can tell how the game is going to go. I started out rough, but I found my pitches, and the rest was history.”
Whether it was nerves, rust or simply feeling out his opponents, the Georgia Tech signee proceeded to throw four perfect innings out of his next five, allowing only a pair of Wolverines to reach in the fourth on an error and a walk.
In the final inning, Westbrooks followed a leadoff walk by retiring his last three batters and slamming the door shut with a pair of strikeouts.
“In that seventh inning, you know you’re starting to feel a little tired and the adrenaline is wearing off a little bit,” he said. “I felt good, though.”
“Brody pitched his tail off,” North Head Coach Jim Cahill said. “He was very effective tonight.”
Laced in between inning after spotless inning by Westbrooks, the Raider lineup had themselves a hitting party.
Eight of nine North starters recorded hits, with infielder Garrett Staton and outfielder Carter Mullikin grabbing two apiece. Staton also tied for the team-lead in RBIs with three, as did leadoff man Miles Hartsfield, who proved to be an absolute headache for the West pitching staff.
“He’s one of the guys that makes us go,” Cahill said of the player sitting at the top of his lineup. “He’s our sparkplug.”
Hartsfield reached four of his five at-bats, walking three times, scoring three times, and recording one hit—one that he used to drive in all three of his RBI’s.
“We were up five runs and I was just looking fastball, looking to extend the lead,” Hartsfield said.
On his first pitch in the fifth inning, West pitcher Luke Fernandez delivered Hartsfield the fastball he was waiting for, which he promptly drilled over the right-field fence, giving his team and 8-1 lead that had already felt excessive.
“We’re just swinging it well right now,” he said.
Even while putting the plentiful hitting, the lights-out starting pitching, and the wins in general aside, the Raiders of the 2019 season have the look and feel of a team that’s absolutely comfortable: chattering heavily with each at bat, never failing to reward teammates with well-deserved high-fives, and even attempting to treat Hartsfield to a Gatorade bath in 50 degree weather (one he managed to sidestep) following the win.
With the five-game winning-streak and trailing only red-hot Milton in the region standings, it’s easy to understand why.
“All of our (pitchers) are getting better as the season’s going on,” Cahill said. “Our hitters are getting better as the season’s going on. Hopefully we can continue to do that.”