North Forsyth ended up on the right side of a pitching dual on Monday night, scoring all of its runs in the first inning before outlasting rival South Forsyth in a 4-1 win at Coal Mountain.
Starting pitcher Tyler Koch got stronger as the game went on, striking out four of the last six batters, and relief pitcher Tyler Fairchild entered and struck out South's Alex Andronica to prevent a late comeback.
North (12-4, 8-2) won its sixth game in a row since falling 8-4 at home to Johns Creek on March 14 and remains in the thick of a tight and competitive Region 6-AAAAAA race between Lambert, Johns Creek, Northview and West Forsyth.
“I think that Johns Creek series might have been a wake up call for us,” North head coach Jim Cahill said. “Since then we've kind of refocused and we've been swinging the bats a lot better.”
South (9-7, 4-6) is dealing with an opposite trend. After looking like a contender early in the season, starting off 7-1, the War Eagles have dropped five of their last six and have ground to make up to get back into the playoff hunt.
“I still feel this is a very talented team,” South head coach Russ Bayer said. “I've preached, if we're going to make a mistake I'd rather it be on aggression and not lack of aggression. We swung the bats early, but right now we're being passive, we're sitting back on offense and defense, and that's not condusive to the talent we have on this team. Ability-wise we have the kids to do it, but they're the ones who need to turn on the switch.”
South starting pitcher Alec Kliphouse gave up all four runs in the first frame, as Cory Campbell started the scoring for North with an RBI double that brought home Zac Slaton. Pinch runners Dawson Rickett and Chopper Thronson, gracing the pads for catcher Parker Enright and Koch, respectively, then scored off a fielder's choice and an error—Slaton came home on the former—and North took an early 4-0 lead.
South's Max Schmal answered in the following frame, bringing home Matt Cunningham on an RBI ground out, but the War Eagles couldn't produce any more offense against Koch for the rest of the contest.
Koch lasted until the final two outs in the top of the seventh after walking a batter. He finished with just two hits allowed, three walks allowed and six strikeouts, while his counterpart in Kliphouse managed four hits and two walks against six strikeouts.
Kliphouse only allowed one hit in the final five frames on the mound. Both coaches took note of the superb pitching after the game.
“I can't tell you how proud I am of Alec,” Bayer said. “Alec gave up one legitimate hit.”
“(Koch) definitely got stronger as the game went on,” Cahill said. “He pitched phenomenal. The last two times he's gone out he's done really well. Really, both pitchers tonight were very good.”