The South Forsyth baseball team has heard plenty what Russ Bayer did in his playing days, from his high school days in Illinois to his college career at the University of Miami to his two years in the minor leagues.
On a brisk, windy Wednesday against North Forsyth, though, Grant Pearce did his coach one better.
“I grabbed Grant and I told him, ‘I give you guys a hard time about things I accomplished in my career, and that’s one thing I never did myself,’” Bayer said.
That was after Pearce, the War Eagles’ senior first baseman and designated hitter, hit his third home run of the night, helping South to an 11-6 win at home and a 2-0 start in Region 5-7A play.
Bayer has been counting on Pearce to be an important offensive producer for South (9-4, 2-0), as evidenced by his placement of the senior in the cleanup spot, and Pearce has filled that role perfectly, collecting 8 RBIs with his performance against the Raiders and increasing his season home run total to five.
“I’ve definitely been seeing the curveball and breaking pitches much better than last year, and I’m feeling good about myself,” Pearce said.
Pearce’s first home run, in the first inning, displayed that improvement, as he tracked a two-strike breaking ball from North (7-7, 0-2) starting pitcher Caelan Thomas and sent it out to left-center for a three-run shot.
An inning later, Pearce took an outside fastball from Thomas over the right field fence for an opposite-field homer that gave South a 7-0 lead, and in the fourth inning did the same against Tucker Daniel, putting the score at 10-2.
“He stuck with the game plan,” Bayer said of Pearce. “We tried to work the ball the other way, not looking to swing for the fences, but we knew that if we pulled the ball, especially early with (the wind) gusting, it was going to knock it down.”
Bayer may not have hit three home runs in a game himself, but he did see it happen while playing high school ball at in Chicagoland area, when Wheaton-Warrenville South’s Mark Genthe homered thrice against Bayer’s Naperville North Huskies. Those didn’t come with Bayer pitching, but it was still something of a helpless feeling watching them.
“’Throw something different,’” Bayer remembered thinking. “’Quit feeding the kid fastballs.’”
North followed that plan in a way on Wednesday, intentionally walking Pearce in his fourth plate appearance. He was disappointed, but he understood.
“It’s kind of a respect thing,” he said.