South Forsyth coach Russ Bayer delivered a lengthy post-game speech last week following a lackluster loss to Johns Creek, and the War Eagles appear to have gotten the message.
After dismantling Northwest Whitfield 9-1 on Friday, South rode the arm of senior left-hander Micah Dunn to a 3-0 win over scrappy Woodland on Monday at War Eagle Field.
The win helped South (11-5, 7-3 region) move into third place in the region standings. Woodland (8-8, 5-6) is still within striking distance but fell a full three games behind the War Eagles in the loss column.
Bayer said the 9-3 loss to first-place Johns Creek, which followed a 10-8 defeat at the hands of second-place Forsyth Central, was more mental than physical.
He used the speech, as well as some other psychological ploys, to get his team focused.
“Ray Lewis had a great speech to the Stanford basketball team that a lot of people have seen on the internet,” Bayer said.
“It’s great. He basically tells them that the only thing that can stop your effort is you. You dictate your effort and your focus. It’s you against you, and that’s what I wanted to get across to our team.
“I don’t doubt our ability at all. We have some very talented players,” Bayer said. “I think they know now that the biggest thing that can stop us is us.”
Bayer said this week’s spring break from classes allowed him and his staff to bring the team to the school early for extra hitting, infield and outfield practice. It also allowed for some extra time to get focused.
“We were able to come off the field, sit and just get our minds right,” Bayer said. “I think it helped.”
It also helped that one of the state’s dominant pitchers was on the mound for the War Eagles. Dunn pinpointed his fastball, and mixed in his curveball and change up to both overpower and befuddle the Wildcats. He finished with 11 strikeouts and yielded just six hits — two of them infield singles — while walking only one batter.
“I felt ready to go, but our whole team stepped up,” said the Marshall signee, who also singled home an insurance run in the bottom of the fifth. “We realized than we could play much better than we had been playing.”
The War Eagles’ offense had to fight to get to Wildcats starter Dalton Martin. The senior side-winding right-hander struck out four and walked just one, but kept South’s hitters on their heels most of the game.
“Dalton threw well enough to win,” said Woodland coach Corey Gochee. “If you had told me he would give up just three hits and one walk, I would have liked our chances. But the difference was when we had our chances, we didn’t make them pay.”
South got its first run in the bottom of the second when catcher Nathan Smith scored on a double by left fielder Sam Walker. Smith had reached on an error.
The War Eagles added their final two runs in the fifth.
Second baseman Andrew Cooley came home on a single up the middle by shortstop Devin Gearhart after leading off the inning with a double. Gearhart then scored on Dunn’s two-out single off the center field wall.
Woodland loaded the bases with one out in the top of the seventh, but Dunn struck out catcher Jordan Osteen and shortstop Camden McGill to end the threat and the game.
“When we gave them chances, they made us pay, and Micah was just a little better than Corey tonight,” Gochee said. “Not much better, but that’s all he needed. We know how tough he can be and tonight he was very tough.”
South is home again today against Cass (5:55 p.m.).