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Baseball: Record number of local teams reach playoffs
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South Forsyth coach Russ Bayer hits ground balls to his infielders during practice on Wednesday at War Eagle Field. The War Eagles begin their first home playoff series since 2009 today against Heritage, Conyers. - photo by Jared Putnam

Fundamentals remained the focus at South Forsyth’s baseball practice Wednesday afternoon, but the sights and sounds were noticeably different.

Preparing to host the first state playoff series at War Eagle Field since 2009, many South players sported freshly shaved Mohawks as they ran through drills, all while an audio tape of crowd noise blared over the press box speakers.

South coach Russ Bayer said the War Eagles have prepared as well as they can for the dynamics of postseason action.

“We all know it’s not a common thing to not only make the playoffs, but to [also finish] high enough in region play to be a host site,” Bayer said.

“We’ve tried to focus on being excited but staying in control and making the game be played at our speed, not getting caught up in the environment.”

South is joined in the postseason by county rivals Forsyth Central, Lambert and North Forsyth, marking the first time in history that four Forsyth County baseball teams have reached the Georgia High School Association playoffs.

Bayer said there’s a sense of pride that comes along with helping the county build a bigger name for itself in the state’s baseball circles.

“If you asked anybody in the last 15 or 20 years what’s the hub of high school baseball in the state of Georgia, nine times out of 10 people are going to tell you Cobb County,” Bayer said.

“Coach [Jamie] Corr did a great job a few years back getting us to a state championship [series], and coach [Byron] Orr won that first state championship at North years ago, and between myself and all the other coaches in the county ... we have a lot of pride in the strength of the talent and the baseball here,” Bayer said.

“We want to continue to be successful and create a tradition and reputation that Forsyth County baseball is very strong.”

South Forsyth (18-8, Region 7-AAAA No. 2 seed) vs. Heritage, Conyers (18-8, Region 8-AAAA No. 3 seed)

The War Eagles and Patriots enter the playoffs sporting the same overall record, and both squads finished the season strong.

Heritage won nine of its final 10 games, while South won seven of its last eight. The War Eagles’ only loss during that stretch was a 5-4 defeat at the hands of No. 5-ranked Johns Creek.

Bayer said Heritage is a fundamentally solid team all the way around, and particularly fast and aggressive on the basepaths.

Senior left-hander Micah Dunn will get the start on the mound for the War Eagles in Game 1, which is scheduled to begin at 5 p.m. today at War Eagle Field. Junior right-hander Zack McCrum will get the call in Game 2 of the double header.

If the series goes to a third game on Saturday, the War Eagles’ starting pitcher will depend on relief appearances in the first two games.

The War Eagles are making their first appearance in the state playoffs since 2010, when they were swept by Lassiter.

Forsyth Central (18-7-1, Region 7-AAAA No. 3 seed) at Winder-Barrow (17-9, Region 8-AAAA No. 2 seed)

In a battle of Bulldogs against Bulldoggs, Forsyth Central will try to upset a Winder-Barrow team that’s been ranked for much of the season.

Winder-Barrow won 16 of 17 games during one stretch in the season, before dropping its final three contests to No. 2 Loganville.

Central coach Kevin McCollum said Loganville P/SS Travis Demeritte is particularly dangerous and rated one of the top prospects in the state. Still, McCollum is confident heading into the series.

“I think we’re fairly evenly matched,” McCollum said.

“They’re pretty solid up and down, but I like our chances against them.”

Central is making its first appearance in the state tournament since 2010, when it was swept in the first round by Hillgrove.

Left-hander Andrew Gist will get the start on the mound for the Bulldogs in Game 1, which is scheduled for 4 p.m. today in Winder. Senior righty David Bermudez will get the call in Game 2 of the double header. McCollum said if Game 3 is necessary, Spencer Transue would likely start.

North Forsyth (9-17, Region 6-AAAAA No. 4 seed) at No. 6 Lassiter (17-9, Region 5-AAAAA No. 1 seed)

North Forsyth coach Jim Cahill said No. 6 Lassiter is a young team much like his Raiders, who returned only two starters from the 2011 season. Cahill described the Trojans’ offense, which averaged more than six runs per game this season, as balanced top to bottom.

“They’re obviously region champs for a reason,” Cahill said.

The Raiders have had their ups and downs this season, struggling out to a 2-10 start and losing three of their last four games, but the coach said the team appears relaxed and focused heading into the postseason.

“This has been one of the best weeks of practice of the year,” Cahill said.

“We got a lot done and put in some new wrinkles. I think with a young team, [the players] don’t feel the pressure.”

Junior right-hander Chris Vincent will get the start on the mound for the Raiders in Game 1, which is scheduled to begin at 5 p.m. today in Marietta. Senior Trevor Sams, another righty, will get the call in Game 2 of the double header.

If the series goes to a third game on Saturday, the Raiders’ starting pitcher will depend on relief appearances in the first two games.

The Raiders are making their second consecutive appearance in the state playoffs. They lost their first-round series against Brookwood in three games last season.

Lambert (17-9, Region 7-AAAA No. 4 seed) at No. 2 Loganville (21-5, Region 8-AAAA No. 1 seed)

Lambert will likely have to work hard for every run it gets against No. 2 Loganville, which held opponents to three runs or less in 19 of the 26 games it played this season.

“Loganville has the deepest pitching staff in the state without a doubt,” Lambert coach Jamie Corr said.

Senior right-hander Zack Schlosser will get the start on the mound for the Longhorns in Game 1, which is scheduled to begin at 4 p.m. today in Loganville. Brock Maxwell will get the call in Game 2 of the double header.

If the series goes to a third game on Saturday, the Horns’ starting pitcher will depend on relief appearances in the first two games. Corr said Clay Crosby, Joe Vonderschmidt and Dylan Biumi are all candidates to start Game 3.

Lambert is making its third straight appearance in the state playoffs but will be on the road for the first time since 2010. The Longhorns hosted two playoff series last season, losing to Dunwoody in three games in the second round.

“It’s a big advantage to be able to play at home, but going on the road has its pluses, too,” Corr said. “Number one, you take all field maintenance out of the equation, which frees up the coaches to concentrate on the game plan.”