North Forsyth’s baseball team knew all about the success Parkview’s program had heading into Thursday night.
It was inescapable, from the retired numbers and banners that covered the left side of the blue outfield wall, to the names of pro players that had come through the program plastered throughout. And their tradition wasn’t ancient history: The Panthers won the 2018 Class 7A title, and the Raiders were in right in the middle of their quest to defend it.
But in the first game of their two-game second round set against Parkview, the Raiders refused to be intimidated. North outhit its opposition in game one, and in the fifth inning, Tyler Triche stepped to the plate with the bases loaded with his team down a run.
“I knew the team was expecting me to do something,” he said. “I just had to come through.”
And he did, connecting on an inside fastball down the left field line to bring in Holton Payne and Carter Mullikin. The Raiders’ dugout exploded — they held a lead over the defending champs in the late innings, and after a Charlie Aiken single later in the frame, the edge grew to 5-3.
That excitement vanished almost as quickly as it came. With no outs in the bottom half, Parkview hit an RBI double to tie it, and the Panthers’ Jonathan French followed up with a two-run homer off North starter Anthony DiMola. DiMola crouched down as he and his teammates tried to contemplate what had just happened.
That shot ultimately paced the Panthers to an 8-6 win in the opener, and their momentum continued into game two, where they blanked the Raiders 13-0 in five innings. North’s 2019 season ends at 18-14 overall.
“We kind of let that first game slip away,” North coach Jim Cahill said. “I think if we win that first game, it's a different story. We had our chances to win and couldn't hold on. They gave their all, that's for sure. That's all you can ask for.”
North was productive at the plate for the majority of game one, notching 12 hits to Parkview’s eight. Until the late innings, though, they rarely resulted in runs. The Panthers took an early lead, but a few baserunning mistakes helped the Raiders get out of some dangerous situations early.
Down 3-0 in the fourth, North finally broke though, with Jess Ackerman singling in Mullikin for the Raiders’ first run. Justice Bailey grounded into a fielders’ choice later in the frame to narrow the deficit to 3-2 before North took its brief lead in the fifth.
“We couldn't take any pitches off,” Triche said. “We just had to do what we had to do. We (fought) every pitch, every inning.”
Parkview started game two with back-to-back solo home runs, putting North down 2-0 before they could even record an out. The Panthers connected on six home runs over the series’ two games, with four of them coming in game two.
“We haven’t given up that many runs in quite a while,” Cahill said.
Meanwhile, the Raiders couldn’t generate nearly the amount of offense they did in game one, amassing just two hits. After Parkview’s five-run fourth extended their lead to 13 runs, it was all but over.
“They hit those bombs in the first inning and I think that kind of got to us, and we went flat,” Triche said.
North’s seen its share of stunning comeback wins this year, even if they didn’t come on Thursday. Cahill was impressed with the fight his team displayed this year, and with a young core, the Raiders are looking forward to next year.
“We have a lot of rising seniors staying,” Triche said. “We have a good team going into next year, a lot of young talent. We should be expected to go far next year.”