On Friday night, the South Forsyth baseball team showed qualities that could make the War Eagles a top contender in Region 5-7A, as well as flaws that could prevent them from reaching that status.
The War Eagles' 12-7 win over McEachern on Senior Night put their record at 7-5 at the conclusion of non-region schedule, which, by head coach Russ Bayer's design, was stacked with some of the top teams in the state. And one of Bayer's main takeaways from those games was that South's group of pitchers is a particularly solid one: The seven runs that the War Eagles gave up on Friday was the highest total they've surrendered all season.
"We've thrown the ball well," Bayer said. "The defense has got to get better, and we've got to keep making adjustments at the plate."
There was also an experienced lineup on display, one that stacked up runs once South got through the order once and got a feel of Indians' starter Victor Scott. The War Eagles racked up nine runs in the third inning, with a bases-clearing, three-RBI double from Cooper Davidson and a two-RBI double from Bradley Prince Jr., both seniors, moving the scoring along.
That rally took the form of a comeback, though, partly due to earlier defensive miscues by South that let the Indians gain a 4-0 lead by the third inning. Only two of McEachern's runs in the game were earned, and defensive miscues in the first, second, fifth and seventh inning all played a part in the Indians' scoring total. The War Eagles had seven errors in total on Friday, and South had five or more errors in three of their last four games of the non-region slate.
"Honestly, I think it's just in our heads right now," Davidson said. "It's just been rolling over, and we've got to make up for that. But we're going to make up for it by the time region play comes, and we'll be fine."
Those mistakes detracted from a night where South got solid outings from three pitchers, none of whom will begin the region schedule in the War Eagles' rotation. Keller Dannemiller allowed two earned runs and gave up four hits over 2 2/3 innings, while Ryan Nolan threw 2 1/3 hitless frames and Peyton Presley threw two innings to close the game out. Presley, a hard-throwing junior, got out of a bases-loaded, no-out jam in the seventh with just unearned run allowed, ending the game with two swinging strikeouts.
On Monday, South is set to begin a run through a region that Bayer called a "gauntlet." Whether it was because of that or the flawed performance in the just-completed game, his mood on Friday was serious.
"We've done a lot of good things at this point," Bayer said. "But we've still got a lot of work to do."