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Baseball: South tops West on Wednesday to stay in playoff race
South Forsyth's Landon Sims delivers a pitch during the War Eagles' game against West Forsyth on April 10, 2019 at South Forsyth High School. - photo by Ian Frazer

By Steven Watkins

For the Forsyth County News

With spring break tournaments behind them, the West Forsyth and South Forsyth baseball teams met on Wednesday at South with the goal of staving off playoff elimination for another game.

The Wolverines struck first with a first-inning run on a pair of singles, courtesy of juniors Wyatt Crowell and Luke Cartenuto, but South then responded emphatically with six runs.

When Wolverines first baseman Brock Imbornone led off the top of the second by ripping a fastball deep and over the left-field fence for a home run, it easily would have been fair to expect West to narrow the gap with a high-scoring inning of their own.

But that didn’t happen. Instead, South starter Landon Sims proceeded to retire each of his next three batters — each of them on strikeouts — and followed that with a trio of scoreless, shut-down innings while backed by an additional six runs from his teammates en route to a 12-2, mercy-rule victory for the War Eagles. 

“I left one up and he ran into it. I mean it happens, and my hat’s off to him,” Simms said on the second-inning homer. “We were up 6-2 at that point, so my mindset was just pitch with a lead and throw a lot of strikes.”

After four-and-a-half innings, what began as a slug-fest that both teams desperately needed ended with South Forsyth seizing their first win of the homestretch without any inkling of a doubt.

“We’re fighting to stay alive,” South head coach Russ Bayer said. “That’s all there is to it. Every year, it doesn’t matter who you are, your ultimate goal is to get into the playoffs, and anything can happen at that point.” 

For the War Eagles this Wednesday, anything that could happen seemed to consistently be in their favor.

West starter Matthew Strzelecki followed a disastrous first inning by giving up an additional three hits in the second, along with hitting another batter and ultimately ending his night.

The West relief effort followed by surrendering an additional five hits, one walk and another hit batsman.

“We did a good job of keeping our foot on the gas and opening things up when they made some mistakes and opened up some windows,” Bayer said. “We took the opportunities and went with it, and that’s what you’ve got to do. It’s a game of momentum.”

South finished the short evening with 11 hits to West’s four, with Sims pitching all five, with five strikeouts and one walk.

“I’m very happy with the way he threw,” Bayer said on his starter’s performance. “He had all three pitches working, and he stayed ahead in the count.”

“We put up 14 runs on Monday and 12 tonight,” Sims said. “When we get ahead like that, I think the main thing is we’ve just got to put teams away like we did tonight.”