If you go
Who: North Forsyth vs. Peachtree Ridge.
What: High School Baseball Showcase.
When: Saturday, 1 p.m.
Where: Coolray Field, home of the Gwinnett Braves.
Tickets: Adult tickets at $10, students are $5 with ID.
North Forsyth’s baseball team has started the new season on the right foot, winning all of their first six contests, but the Raiders understand little has been accomplished. As head coach Jim Cahill put it, games bear little significance until the Region 6-AAAAAA schedule begins on March 17.
But that doesn’t make their perfect record irrelevant; rather, it should serve as a momentum builder for what North hopes to be a successful campaign.
"We’ve gotten a little bit better every day," Cahill said. "We still have a long way to go, lots of things to improve on, but we’re getting there.
"I don’t think anybody is at the top of their game right now—fielding, offense, running the bases. We’re still making some little mistakes, but that’s why we practice the way we do."
The Raiders, who lost six seniors from last year’s club to graduation, plan on fielding a relatively young team in 2014. Lots of sophomores will have the chance to earn playing time on varsity, and these pre-region contests give Cahill a glimpse at what to expect from his younger players over the next several months.
Thus far, he likes what he’s seen.
"It’s all a work in progress," said Cahill. "We have a lot more than just nine guys. We have a bunch of kids who deserve a shot to play."
As is often the case in March, pitchers still have a longer way to go before reaching top form. North’s staff is still working on increasing pitch counts, sharpening off-speed deliveries and building arm strength. Additionally, extra caution has been taken with the cold weather that has swept through Georgia.
However, the Raiders’ pitchers have been throwing extremely well—giving up 2.83 runs per game, earned and unearned. Only twice have they surrendered more than three runs; twice, they’ve surrendered none.
Cody Gottberg, a senior righty, has been one of North’s pitchers to enjoy early success.
"We’ve been doing a good job on the mound," said Gottberg, "but we do need to throw more first pitch strikes. That should come along as we play more."
As strong as the pitching and defense has been, the hitting has been just as good—if not better. North is scoring an average of 6.5 runs per game, including two 10-run showings. The one game in which the offense struggled (on Feb. 24 against Forsyth Central) North tossed a shutout for a 1-0 victory.
One of the Raiders’ most lethal bats through six games has belonged junior Bailey Mauldin. Hitting right around .500, he figures to be one of North’s most consistent offensive threats down the stretch.
"I have a lot stuff to work on, just fundamental stuff," he said, "but I’m really happy with my start … but it can’t just be one guy. We need a lot of us to step up."
Another position player expected to do big things in 2014 is Harris Roberts. Having moved from third base to shortstop this spring, coach Cahill has high expectations for the senior infielder.
"We’re doing everything well," said Roberts. "We’re playing together as a team. Personally I would like to be hitting the ball a little better right now, but that doesn’t matter as long as we’re winning."
The Raiders’ season continues Saturday at Coolray Field, home of the Gwinnett Braves, where they will take on Peachtree Ridge at 1 p.m. After that, just two contests remain before the region schedule gets underway at home against Lambert.
Before that match-up against the Longhorns, North hopes to get a few more things in order—namely cut down on mistakes and perform with more cohesiveness.
"We want to be the region champion, but that won’t come without hard work" said Gottberg. "If we improve a bit here and there we should be fine.
"That’s the first goal we want to achieve, and we’ll go on from there."