Coming off a win against South and a close, hard-fought loss to Lambert earlier in the week, North Forsyth’s baseball team entered Thursday’s contest against West Forsyth oozing confidence.
So when the Raiders fell into a 4-1 hole in the fifth inning, they avoided any sense of panic. Instead, they mounted an impressive come-from-behind victory, authoring a four-run sixth to beat the Wolverines, 5-4, in a Region 6-AAAAAA on the road.
“I was proud of our effort,” said North head coach Jim Cahill. “We weren’t down coming into this game. We couldn’t get down this week, and we stayed even-keeled. We did a lot of good things tonight.”
The late surge was fashioned by some timely hitting and successful small-ball.
The sixth got started with a walk to Matthew Heard, followed by a single from Max Bening. Then Brant Stark cranked a double that brought both runners home, slicing West’s lead to one.
Moments later, Stark scored after a second straight passed ball to tie the game.
“It felt real good,” Stark said of his hit. “[The pitcher] got behind in the count, so I knew a fastball was coming. I just sat back and drove it.”
That passed ball came during a suicide squeeze attempt, which likely affected the pitch and/or vision of the catcher.
Pinch hitter Cody Gattberg promptly tied the game with an RBI single, then North attempted another suicide squeeze — and this time, it was laid down beautifully.
Griffin Caracciolo got the bunt down, which came to a halt several feet from the plate, mere inches from the first baseline. Cory Campbell, who broke for home before the pitch was delivered, scored easily to give North a 5-4 lead, one it would not relinquish.
“It’s huge,” Cahill said of the bunting. “West is a really talented group, and we have to do some things differently than other teams — and one of those things is small-ball. We practice it all the time, the kids buy into it and it helped us a lot tonight. That’s how we win games.”
North got staunch pitching from starter Campbell as well as Gattberg, who threw two strong innings in relief to compliment his key game-tying hit.
Campbell went four innings, surrendering just three hits and two earned runs. Gattberg worked three innings, giving up four hits and two earned runs.
“I knew I’d get the job done,” Gattberg said. “I’m glad coach gave me the opportunity. I took the outside fastball and drove it the other way.”
Conner Milford, who left the game with a 4-1 lead, tossed five strong innings for West. North only got four hits off him and struck out seven times against the right-hander.
Chris Cullen had a good night at the plate for the Wolverines, going 1-for-3 with an RBI, two walks and a run scored.
Down by one, West kicked off the bottom of the seventh with a single by Hampton McConnell, giving the Wolverines the injection of energy they needed to stage a comeback. But the next batter hit into a 6-4-3 double play that could have very well saved the game for North.
Gattberg struck out the next batter looking to put the final nail in West’s coffin.
“That was huge,” Gattberg said of the double play. “It quieted their entire dugout, took all the life out of them. They didn’t want to be here anymore.
“We’re feeling good. Lambert was the best team in the region, and we played tough with them yesterday, so we know we can play with anybody.”