Britton Rellinger knew he'd better hustle.
After squaring up a Brett Barfield offering during Wednesday's game against North Forsyth, he sized up the hit and thought the ball might leave the park.
But Rellinger was taking no chances in just his second start of the season, so he put his head down and sprinted toward first base. The ball hit the fence on the fly, and Rellinger galloped around second base and into third with a triple.
"I was kind of feeling it, but I wasn't sure, so I was running and I was like, 'I don't want to be the guy that's trotting and it just lands there and only gets to first or second.' So, I was running as fast as I could, no matter what," Rellinger said.
His next time up, there was little doubt.
Rellinger turned on an inside fastball, sending a two-run homer over the left-field wall for his third hit of the night, extending South Forsyth's lead and helping the War Eagles earn a 9-3 bounce-back victory over North.
Rellinger earned the start at designated hitter after Ryan Becker tweaked his hamstring Monday night. Rellinger responded with a perfect 3-for-3 night at the dish, driving in four runs, which included his two-run triple in the third inning.
"It's a testament to him," South coach Russ Bayer said. "I don't think anybody could be happier for him than his teammates and his coaches, because he's such a great-character kid. He deserved the opportunity and he rose to the occasion."
Brandon Clemente earned the win for South, scattering four hits across 5 2/3 innings and giving up three runs — two earned.
North took an early lead after Colby Hunt was plunked to start the game, then came around to score after back-to-back singles by Tyler Triche and Jess Ackerman. Andrew Elkhill plated Triche with a sacrifice fly to give the Raiders a 2-0 lead.
South responded immediately, as Gehrig Frei scorched a double down the left-field line, then scored on Addison Paschall's RBI single up the middle.
"We go out there in the top of the first and we hit the leadoff hitter and they get a couple knocks," Bayer said. "Unfortunately, you don't want to back back into damage control, but that's almost what we got into. Brandon was able to pitch out of it, then in the first, we made a lot of loud contact. That was the biggest thing for me, because if you look over the last three or four weeks — like anyone else; it's not a secret — when we're swinging the bats well, we put ourselves in a good position."
Clemente settled in and faced the minimum in the second, fourth and fifth innings. The only North player who logged multiple hits against Clemente was Michael Sills, who had an RBI single in the third to grant the Raiders a 3-2 lead.
"The biggest thing with Brandon is just repeating his delivery," Bayer said. "A lot of times he tries to be too fine and he muscles up, and you saw a lot of that in the first inning. He really hit cruise control in the third, fourth and five, just trusting his delivery and going after the guys."
South exploded in the bottom half of the frame, using a six-run third inning to break away. Jack D'Amico tied the game with a one-out RBI double, then Mitch Thompson drew a bases-loaded walk that allowed South to take the lead.
Then, one batter later, Rellinger broke the game open with his bases-clearing triple.
Rellinger's only other start this season came in a 14-0 win against Pinecrest Academy. He went 0-for-1 with two runs scored in that game but admitted it wasn't his best performance.
"It wasn't the greatest feeling," Rellinger said. "To come out today and just know in my heart that God had a plan, and I knew that if it was his will it would be done, so I was really feeling it today."
Barfield took the loss for North, pitching 2 2/3 innings and giving up seven runs on seven hits, while Dylan Quintilio pitched 1 1/3 innings of hitless relief for South, striking out two.
South's defense helped Clemente in the fourth inning, when second baseman Max Henry opened the inning with a leaping snag, robbing Josh Zirlott of a hit. Two batters later, Henry rolled a double-play ball to Frei, who stepped on second and fired to first to end the inning.
Seven different players had a hit for South, while all nine starters reached base. Frei finished 2-for-3 with a run scored and a walk.
Frei was also among the first players to greet Rellinger after his home-run trot, bumping chests with Rellinger as he entered the dugout.
"They've been so awesome about it," Rellinger said of his teammates. "They're so encouraging about it. Before I even did anything, even though I've been on the bench all year, they were hyping me up like, 'Hey man, you've got this.' I was really feeling some love from them, so that was awesome."
South (13-10, 5-7 Region 6-7A) will step out of region play at noon Friday against Northview, while North (13-11, 6-6 Region 6-7A) will host West Forsyth at 6:15 p.m. Friday.