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Quick start helps North Forsyth baseball hold off Forsyth Central
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North Forsyth baseball coach Jim Cahill (left) chats with Raiders batter Tyler Shelley during a pause in the action Friday. - photo by Brian Paglia

North Forsyth baseball jumped out to an early lead and never looked back on their way to beating the Forsyth Central Bulldogs 7-5 on Friday night.

Leadoff batter Zac Slaton jump-started the Raider’s season with a leadoff single. Cory Campbell knocked Slaton in on an RBI single that started the three-run first inning. Tyler Sheley added two RBI’s of his own when he hit a double with one out. North’s big first inning came to an end when Central starting pitcher Ethan Hawkins got his first strikeout of the season, leaving two men in scoring position.

North Forsyth head coach Jim Cahill said the big first inning was an important.

“We jumped on them first thing,” said Cahill. “We had some good at bats tonight, still have to cut down on strikeouts, but overall pretty good.”

The Raiders (1-0) entered the season with big holes to fill. They lost their top two starting pitchers from the year before in MLB draftee Dakota Chalmers and Matthew Heard as well as multiple position players. Though North still has plenty of talent, with seven college signees, it figures to have a different identity from last season’s team that reached the state playoffs.

Central (0-1) entered the season following an impressive 2015 campaign that featured a Region 7-AAAAA title and the farthest state playoff run out of any county team. They look to 2016 to make an even deeper run in the playoffs, and it all started with a big out-of-region matchup against North.

Central’s first runs of the season came in the second inning when Pierce Nufer knocked in Hunter Bauman. Central also capitalized on one of two North errors, making the game 3-2.

North answered in the top of the third inning with a couple of hits and a runner reaching base by a hit-by-pitch. Central allowed an unearned run when a wild pitch got away from the catcher, making the score 5-2. North added two more to its lead in the fourth inning from an error in right field that allowed for the bases to become loaded. On another wild pitch, North took its largest lead of the game at 7-2.

With two runners in scoring position, a pair of hits from Connor Tinkle and Parker Biederer made the lead 7-4. The last run of the game came in the sixth inning from a Taylor Bauman RBI single.

North closer Cory Campbell ended the game with two straight strikeouts, clinching the win in its first game of the year.

“We played pretty solid defense,” Cahill said. “Our kids hustled, played small ball and got the big hit when it counted.”

Central’s first game of the season was headlined by mistakes. They ended the game with two errors and four wild pitches.

“This is the first game where it meant something, you’d think [our players] would come out with a little more carefree, just wanting to play the game attitude” said Central coach Kevin McCollum, “but we came out very tight and played the whole game pretty tight.”

Central pitcher Ryu Head pitched four innings in relief, allowing three runs and striking out five North Forsyth batters.

Zac Slaton lead all batters with two hits on the night. Central’s Robbie Repasz reached base twice on hit-by-pitches.