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North Forsyth baseball can't work magic against Pope
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North Forsyth catcher Brant Stark attemps to tag Popes Jake Pralgo at home plate Friday in the teams Class AAAAAA first round series. - photo by David McGregor

MARIETTA – All season, North Forsyth baseball grew comfortable living in the improbable and the perplexing. The Raiders played more one-run games than any other Forsyth County team during the regular season. They were the author of comeback rallies seemingly every week; some were near misses, but all were compelling. Eventually it came to be that no moment felt too dire for North.

But stretched into the postseason, the Raiders couldn’t summon the dramatics to best Pope, falling to the Greyhounds 3-2 in 10 innings in Game 1 and 3-0 in Game 2 of their Class AAAAAA first round series Friday.

Pope advanced to face the Marietta-East Coweta winner, while North finished its season at 16-12-1.

“We had some chances,” North head coach Jim Cahill said. “During the [regular] season we had some big hits in key situations. We just didn’t get that [Friday]. That’s a credit to Pope and their pitching.”

Indeed, the Greyhounds held North to just two runs and six hits combined in the series.

The Raiders had to first contend with Pope starter Braden Zarbnisky in Game 1. The West Virginia signee lasted eight innings and allowed just two runs on four hits while striking out 13.  

Zarbnisky gave way to Matt Rowland, who eventually earned the win after Pope’s Joshua Lowe hit a walk-off home run in the bottom of the 10th.

Then the Raiders had to deal with junior Cameron Allison, who threw a complete game shutout in Game 2 allowing just one hit with 10 strikeouts over seven innings.

“They threw four really good guys out there,” Cahill said.

North’s pitching was almost as good. Matthew Heard kept pace with Zarbnisky in Game 1, holding Pope to two runs over eight innings. Zac Slaton had three hits, while Brant Stark drove in both of the Raiders’ runs.

Dakota Chalmers nearly matched Allison in Game 2 with six shutout innings before Pope scored three runs in the top of the seventh. Slaton had the only hit for North. Max Bening drew three of the Raiders’ five walks against Allison.

“I wish we at least had a shot [Saturday],” Cahill said.

Instead, the Raiders’ season came to an end, but it was an entertaining one from beginning to end that Cahill hopes made an impression on the team’s returning players next season.

“I’m just proud of how hard the kids worked,” Cahill said. “It showed that if you work hard and come to practice every day, do the little things, you make the playoffs. We’ve got a lot of juniors, a lot of underclassmen, on the roster. Hopefully this was a good experience for them, and they know what it takes to make the playoffs.

“Maybe next year we take it two steps further.”