North Forsyth’s Charlie Aiken took his lead off of third base, knowing he could have a good chance to break for home at any moment.
After all, pitchers on both sides of North’s Friday night matchup with South Forsyth were erratic at times, with 12 combined walks, six hit batters and three wild pitches. Sure enough, with Kaiden Ellis batting, a pitch from South’s Jack D'Amico went behind the catcher, and Aiken ran for it.
He touched home and immediately ran into the dugout, where he was mobbed by his teammates. His run had just given the Raiders a 10-9 lead just one frame after being down by a daunting six runs.
North’s seven-run fourth was just the start of the Raiders’ late tear, with North ultimately scoring nine unanswered runs to secure the comeback, winning 12-9 on Friday night. With the win, North improved to 10-7 overall and 4-3 in Region 5-7A play. South dropped to 7-9 overall and 1-6 in the region.
“This team never give up,” Aiken said. “We've got a lot of fight in us. We know that the game's seven innings and at any point the game can turn around. I just believed in my guys and I knew we could get the win. It was crazy. I don't even know how we did it, but I was happy with it.”
Miles Hartsfield and Carter Mullikin started the fourth with a single and an RBI double, and after an error at second, two more doubles from Tyler Triche and Aiken tied the game at nine before Aiken sprinted home on the passed ball. Throughout the entire ordeal, South failed to record a single out. North added insurance runs in the fifth and sixth on a sacrifice fly and an RBI triple from Garrett Staton.
“We just knew that if we came out swinging, we would put contact on their pitchers,” Aiken said. “We've been hot lately -- we've been trying to keep it up and keep smacking it.”
Before overcoming that six-run lead, North faced another early-game deficit in the first inning. The War Eagles loaded the bases on a single and two hit batters before Payton Rawlins singled in two. After a Cole Kliphouse double and a Gehrig Frei RBI groundout, South had a promising 4-0 lead.
But just like it eventually did in the fourth, North didn’t take long to erase that edge. The Raiders scored three in the top of the third, but the War Eagles continued their early-game success against North starter Tyler Cowan, holding a seemingly comfortable 9-3 lead at the end of the third.
“He pitched outstanding last week at Lambert, but he couldn't battle through like he did last week,” North coach Jim Cahill said. “We were lucky we had some good relief pitching today and some timely hitting.”
South was almost as effective as North offensively, but on the mound, the War Eagles' relievers couldn’t limit the damage. Usually, leaving nine runners on isn’t as big of an issue when a team scores nine runs, but after Friday’s loss, leaving that many runners stranded was disappointing for a South team still looking to get back in the playoff race.
“We’re putting runs on the board, we're outhitting teams, we're actually making pretty good defensive plays,” South coach Russ Bayer said. “But the reality of it is, we're getting ahead in the count and we're giving up way too many two-strike hits. We're not getting big hits when we need them. Simply put, we're not doing the things that we need to, even though we're in every ballgame.
“The window's closing. Time's ticking, and we've got to figure this out.”