LAWRENCEVILLE — Chest-high fastballs look just as good to Tony Papale in a minor league ballpark as they do on high school baseball fields.
Papale delivered three insurance runs with a seventh inning double and finished the game with four RBIs as North Forsyth defeated Peachtree Ridge 9-5 Saturday night at CoolRay Field, the home of the Gwinnett Braves.
"I was just trying to put the ball in play and ended up getting a lot more than I expected," Papale said. "It was a two-run game [so] it was important."
The Raiders, who have also played games at Turner Field in recent seasons, never appeared distracted by the bigger venue. North (4-3) led most of the game, but never by more than two runs until Papale (2-for-4) yanked the ball down the left field line for his second double of the night.
The Raiders took the first lead of the game in the top of the second inning when Tyler Welch (2-for-3, 3 RS) reached base on a leadoff double to right-center and scored after Michael Henderson delivered a single that led to an error. Harris Roberts (2-for-4, 2 RBIs) increased the lead to 2-0 in the top of the third with a single that drove in Griffin Caracciolo, who walked and moved into scoring position on a single by Nick Aiken.
"We did a lot of little things well tonight," Raiders head coach Jim Cahill said. "That’s encouraging going into region [play]."
Peachtree Ridge (3-4) was able to consistently get runners on base against North starting pitcher Chris Vincent (5 IP, 7 K, 5 R, 10 H, 1 BB), but struggled to string together enough hits to do much damage apart from the bottom of the third inning. Vincent, a senior right-hander, allowed four consecutive hits in the third, including a two-run double by Tyler Chaney that put the Lions ahead 3-2.
The Raiders regained the lead in the top of the fourth with the help of a Peachtree Ridge pitching change.
Lions right-hander Myron Burton replaced starter Jonathan Hudson on the mound and walked four of the five batters he faced. Burton also uncorked two wild pitches, including one that brought Henderson in from third to tie the game.
Peachtree Ridge went to the bullpen a second time and swapped Burton for Craig Williams, who gave up two more runs when he hit Aiken with a pitch and surrendered an RBI single to Roberts to make the score 5-3.
The Lions cut the lead to 5-4 in the bottom of the frame before Papale delivered his first hit of the night, scoring Welch in the top of the fifth. Papale said the opportunity to play at CoolRay provided extra motivation.
"You feel like you’re in the bigs," Papale said. "It gives you a desire to try harder and do [well]. Once the game starts you just have that little extra focus."
The Raiders put the game away in the seventh on Papale’s hit following back-to-back singles by Welch and Henderson and a defensive miscue that allowed Justin Stanley to reach first and load the bases.
"It’s nice to not play a close game every now and then," Cahill said. " ... We put everything together tonight."