At the beginning of the week North Forsyth was wondering if it would even make the postseason.
With gloves in the air, water cups poured on heads and high fives all around, the Raiders capped off a dramatic turn of events Thursday night with a 7-3 win to complete the sweep of West Forsyth and scure the No. 2 seed in the Region 6-AAAAAA standings, only behind region champion Lambert.
Andrew Grogan pitched the second complete game for the Raiders (17-9, 13-5) in two nights, striking out nine batters as he located his variety of pitches throughout the evening. Air Force signee Cory Campbell had a highlight-reel catch in center field and a solo home run, while Bailey Gerstner continued his aggressive play at the plate, reaching on four of five at bats, including two doubles.
Suddenly the Raiders are a hot team heading into the postseason and enjoying every bit of it.
“It's an energetic bunch that has gotten through us some tough times throughout the year. They are a great group of kids who have a lot of fun playing the game,” North head coach Jim Cahill said.
The Raiders were expecting an urgent performance from West (15-11, 13-5) after the Wolverines were shutout on Wednesday. After a quick turnaround due to the second game being moved up because of expected inclement weather, the Wolverines jumped on North in the first inning when sophomore sparkplug Connor Kirley scored off a sacrifice fly from Bryar Hawkins.
“They had a little momentum to start the game but we were able to get some big hits, and we had great at-bats as well,” Cahill said.
West starting pitcher Lucas Ellenburg had a strong first two frames before getting four times in the third. With the bases loaded, Campbell had an RBI single, then Tyler Martin brought home Gerstner and Campbell on a two-RBI single.
After West bounced back with RBI-singles from Hank Flood and Connor Weldy to make the score 4-3 in the fourth, Campbell took back momentum with his home run in the following frame.
Gerstner and Campbell scored again off a bases-loaded situation in the sixth to secure the final score.
West managed eight hits against Grogan, but had trouble stringing together runs when it mattered.
“We had a chance to really do what they did to us yesterday and didn't,” West head coach Mike Pruitt said. “Right now, I don't know if it's our youth, but we're just not tough enough to overcome those moments. The fight has to be in you. North has it, they grind it out. When they get two strikes they make things happen, but when we get two strikes we melt like ice cubes in July.”
Despite the lull to end the year, Pruitt hopes his team can turn things around in the playoffs.
“We've won some tight ball games against really good teams and done really good things, but there's times where we just don't have the mental toughness. We have a lot of guys who haven't played a lot of varsity baseball. We're in, we hate to go in limping, but we have a week to recover.”