The feeling in the South Forsyth dugout, as Jack Kream put it, was "intense." This year's War Eagles baseball team hadn't been in the spot it found itself on Wednesday night, trailing 5-2 at home in the bottom of the seventh to West Forsyth, closer than ever to its first loss in region play.
But South head coach Russ Bayer has a feeling about this team that he's had with some of his best past squads.
"Their mindset was where it needed to be," Bayer said. "They knew what we were trying to accomplish. They knew we had to get on base, and once we kind of got the ball rolling, they did a great job of slowing it down and taking it hitter-by-hitter."
So the War Eagles started chopping. After West Forsyth reliever Ryan Ferguson opened the seventh with a flyout, Landon Sims hit a single to left. Kyle Becker blooped a single into right, and then Drew Becker singled to center, scoring Sims. Bradley Prince singled to load the bases, and after Ryan Finnegan struck out, Ben Ferrer singled two runs home to tie the game at 5-5.
After Davidson held the line in relief for three scoreless innings, it was Kream that ended the contest in the 10th inning, singling up the middle with the bases loaded to give South a 6-5 win and set up an opportunity to clinch the region title on Thursday.
"It was the most exciting part of our year," Kream said of the win.
Kream, a sophomore, was a somewhat unlikely hero for the senior-loaded War Eagles, and he hadn't even started the game. Apart from a spurt in the second inning when a single from Cooper Davidson, a single from Matty Bapst and an RBI double from Landon Sims gave South a 2-0 lead, the War Eagles rarely squared up West starter Wyatt Crowell.
And when the Wolverines (10-19, 2-9 Region 5-7A) surged ahead on Indy Stanley's two-run home run in the sixth and added two more on a Cade Pruitt single and Ryan Gray sacrifice fly, South faced a must-score situation for the first time in region play.
But just as they'd done the vast majority of times during the season, the War Eagles (20-5, 10-0) were first to come through in a decisive spot. Kream had the opportunity, presented when West head coach Mike Pruitt signaled to intentionally walked the two batters ahead of Kream to set up a force at home, and he kept his aims simple.
"Just make contact," Kream said.
The War Eagles can clinch the Region 5-7A title with a win over Milton in a make-up game on Thursday, as South would then be four games ahead of Forsyth Central, whom it holds the tiebreaker over, with four games to go.