North Forsyth head coach Jim Cahill stresses the importance of two-out run production, especially in hard-fought region games. It’s a message his players seem to have taken to heart.
North scored 10 runs, all with two outs, and dodged trouble in the late innings to defeat West Forsyth 10-6 on Monday at Wolverine Field. Eight of the Raiders’ runs were scored after there were two outs and no one on base.
"That’s one of the things that we’ve kind of harped on," Cahill said. "That’s going to help us win games, especially close games, region games that are pretty intense.
"We got production up and down the lineup. It was great to see everybody come in and do a good job."
Wolverines starting pitcher Chris Adams retired five Raiders (10-8, 3-3 Region 6-AAAAAA) in a row and was one strike away from closing out the top of the second inning when his control disappeared.
Adams hit Matthew Heard on an 0-2 pitch, then issued three consecutive walks to force him home and put North on top 1-0. Adams fell behind 2-0 in the count against Michael Henderson (2-for-4), prompting a visit from West head coach Mike Pruitt.
The talk didn’t help, as Henderson ripped the next pitch to center field for a three-run double. Tyler Welch (2-for-5) followed with a double off the left field wall that drove in Henderson to make the score 5-0 and ended Adams’ night on the mound.
"We’ve got to find a way to get this big inning [for the opposing team] out of us," Pruitt said. "We seem to have the ability, and it’s not a good ability, to not be able to throw strikes at crucial times."
West (8-8, 2-4) got on the scoreboard in the bottom of the third off North starting pitcher Chris Vincent (4 2/3 IP, 3 K, 6 R, 8 H, BB) courtesy of an RBI double by Hampton McConnell and scored again in the fourth on a sacrifice fly by Jacob Hill.
The Raiders answered both times in the following inning — first on a solo homer by Tony Papale (2-for-3) off Zack Bitzer in the fourth, before Heard scored when Brant Stark came up with an infield single that resulted in a throwing error.
The Wolverines gave the Raiders a taste of their own medicine in the bottom of the fifth, when they scored four runs after there were two outs and no one on base, with the help of two errors.
Hill, Chris Cullen (2-for-4) and Brett Anderson (3-for-3) all delivered RBI singles off Vincent to narrow the gap to 7-5 before he was replaced on the mound by Heard. Anderson later baited the reliever into a rundown that allowed another run to score.
North pushed the lead to 8-6 in the top of the sixth on an RBI double by Heard off reliever Alec Wilson, and West missed a golden opportunity to continue its rally in the bottom of the inning.
Hunter Belue drew a leadoff walk and Sam Sutko reached on an error to put the potential tying runs on base with no one out, but North got out of the jam unscathed.
Heard struck out Johnny Cassandra, who fouled off two sac bunt attempts, and got McConnell to ground a ball that allowed third baseman Harris Roberts to tag Belue and throw to first for an inning-ending 5-3 double play.
"I’m pretty proud of them," Cahill said. "We made a few errors on some routine balls, but we definitely made up for it with some heads-up play. They don’t get down if they make an error, they’re always looking to make the next play."
Roberts drove in North’s final runs with an RBI triple in the top of the seventh. West loaded the bases and brought the potential tying run to the plate with two outs in the bottom of the frame, but Welch , North’s third pitcher of the night, struck out Belue to end the game.
West has lost its last four region games after starting the 6-AAAAAA schedule 2-0. The Wolverines are 0-3 against county rivals this season despite having out-hit their opponents in all three matchups.
"One of your main goals is to beat your rivals," Pruitt said. "... Last year we didn’t lose to any of them. This year we haven’t beaten any of them.
"I don’t know where the gumption has to come from to figure out how to do that, because there are none of them better than us. There are none of them better than us, and I’m not afraid to say that, and I think [our players] know that."
The Raiders have struggled to string together wins much of the season, but have won their last three games and three of their last four region contests.
"If you look back at some of the games we’ve lost, they’ve been close games," Cahill said.
"We’ve been in every game and I think maybe we’re starting to figure out how to win them."