By Ian Frazer
As the rest of the team went through their customary post-game chores – dragging the infield, taking the outfield flags down, brushing the dirt around home plate – the South Forsyth baseball team’s 11 seniors stood around head coach Russ Bayer in the outfield and talked about a bit of everything.
The mood was not a celebratory one at first, as South’s season had just ended in the second round of the state playoffs, with Brookwood winning 12-1 in five innings on Friday to take the three-game second-round playoff series.
The series had started off slanted towards pitching, with the War Eagles’ Landon Sims and the Broncos’ Alex Flood dueling through the first game on Thursday, which South wound up winning 3-2 on a walk-off single from Ryan Finegan, but both teams’ bats rose up in the second game, a 10-7 Brookwood win.
That theme continued early on Friday, as Brookwood got two runs on two RBI doubles in the first, and South responded with an RBI single from Ben Ferrer in the bottom of the first.
But the War Eagles stopped there, and the Broncos kept going. They scored runs in every inning on Friday, and Will Banfield’s three-run home run in the top of the fifth put the game in run-rule territory.
“We couldn’t execute with guys in scoring position, and they did,” South senior Cooper Davidson said. “That’s what it came down to.”
The result only had so much weight on the team’s mood, though, because by the end of Bayer’s talk, the coach and players were both laughing, reminiscing on the memories the group had made during this year’s 26-7 season and, for many of the seniors, the three campaigns before that.
“They did a lot for me,” Bayer said of the group. “They helped rejuvenate my love (of baseball), in a lot of ways, with the attitude and the energy and the competition and the fun that they brought back to the game.”
Bayer, in his ninth season with the program, was a different coach in 2018. The addition of assistant coach Mike Power, who assumed third-base coaching duties, let Bayer move into the dugout, and that changed the way he related to the team, giving him a feeling he hadn’t felt since his minor league career ended.
“This is probably the first time since 2004 where I felt like I was a kid out there with them,” Bayer said.
“He got back to his roots as a baseball player, seeing it from our point of view,” Davidson said of Bayer. “I definitely think that it was good for him.”
Seven of the War Eagles’ seniors are set to play college baseball, and South will certainly miss that talent leading the program. But when asked what would stand out about this particular team when he looked back on it in the future, Bayer first mentioned the standard of leadership and competitiveness that the group set.
“They raised the bar for everybody,” he said.