The result wound up being inconsequential for the North Forsyth baseball team, in a way.
The Raiders’ playoff seed was vulnerable to movement on Thursday night, but only if Lambert would have won. The Longhorns didn’t, losing 4-0 to South Forsyth, so the Raiders would have secured the No. 3 state playoff seed regardless of their result against West Forsyth.
North’s 7-4 win over the Wolverines still had plenty of significance, however, for a team that had been struggling recently.
“It’s a little momentum going into the playoffs,” Raiders head coach Jim Cahill said. “I thought we swung the bat pretty well tonight. I thought our kids battled on the mound … (We’re) just glad to get out of here with a win.”
It broke a four-game losing streak for the Raiders, and the win was their first against a region opponent since before spring break. In fact, the Raiders’ output of runs on Thursday was two more than they had managed in their previous four games combined.
“I think us just controlling our swings, not being big, long swings every time, getting two-strike contact and everything really contributes to getting runners on and scoring,” said North third baseman Garrett Staton, who went 2-for-4 on the night.
North didn’t break out immediately on Thursday. After two scoreless innings between Raiders starter Anthony DiMola and West’s Luke Fernandez, the Wolverines grabbed the first lead on Luke Cartenuto’s solo home run in the third inning. Holton Payne hit a dinger for the Raiders to tie it up in the fourth, but West got the lead back in the bottom of the frame on a bases-loaded walk and an alert play by Wyatt Crowell to dash home on a passed ball.
North (16-12, 8-7 Region 5-7A) responded forcefully over the next two innings, though: A two-RBI single by Miles Hartsfield and a base knock by Staton to drive in another gave the Raiders three in the fifth, and in the sixth, Charlie Aiken whacked a three-run home run over the scoreboard in left field.
West got a run back in the bottom of the sixth, but the Wolverines were silent after that, with Tyler Triche coming in from the bullpen to finish the game for North.
West (10-17, 3-12) was mathematically eliminated from playoff contention on Wednesday with its loss to Forsyth Central, but Thursday marked the formal end of the season for the Wolverines, who finished last in the region for the second straight year. Wolverines head coach Mike Pruitt found positivity nonetheless after the game, both at the fight he saw against the Raiders and the potential he sees for next season’s team.
“This is probably the most we’ve competed all year, tonight,” Pruitt said. “I told them, ‘I’ve got nothing bad to say to you.’”
And even though it has to go on the road, North is positive about its chances in its first-round playoff series, which is set to start next Wednesday at Archer. The Tigers, the No. 2 seed from Region 8-7A, are currently 11-3 in region play but had a more pedestrian 6-7 mark against non-region opponents.
“I just love (this) team,” Staton said. “We’re a good group, we’ve got good chemistry. I think we can go a long way with each other.”