South Forsyth struggled in the field and at the plate.
The War Eagles tallied five errors, five walks and left nine on base, including five in scoring position, as they were upended by Cherokee 7-4 on Wednesday at War Eagle Field.
"We couldn’t find a way to eliminate the big inning and helped them with walks and made mistakes," South head coach Russ Bayer said. "We essentially gave them about five of the seven runs they scored. Good ball clubs don’t do that. We need to force the other team to actually earn their runs. In between walks and errors, that’s not really much of a winning combination."
After two flawless innings by South (4-5) pitcher Logan Cole, the right-hander couldn’t find his groove in the third.
Cole (3 IP, 3 ER, 4 K, 0 H, 3 BB) walked the first two batters to send the nine-hole hitter JaDavin Keith to the plate. Keith attempted to move the runners over with a sacrifice bunt, but catcher Nate Smith’s throw to first was off target and rolled into right field, allowing two runs to score and Keith to reach third.
Alex Murfin then scored Keith with a sacrifice fly in left-center field to clear the bases. Cole struck out the next batter, but walked Eli Dickens before cleanup hitter Mason Ward singled to move him to third. Smith tried to catch Ward stealing second on the next pitch, but his throw to second base was off its mark and let Dickens cross the plate to give Cherokee (3-7) a 4-0 lead.
The Warriors added two more in the fifth inning. Austin Pharr bunted toward first and was able to reach second after Zach McCrum instinctively pitched the ball to first base with nobody covering the bag. Dickens drove Pharr home with a single to right field and he scored from second after an infield error.
South rallied in the bottom of the frame as Nate Schmal scored from third on a wild pitch from Dickens (6 1/3 IP, 5 H, 4 ER, 9 K, 4 BB, 1 HBP) and Anthony Trovato crossed the plate after Smith was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded to close the gap to 6-2, but a strikeout ended the inning.
Cherokee added an insurance run in the seventh off an error, but the War Eagles made things interesting in the bottom of the inning. Zach Baus scored on an error and Smith (2-for-3, 2B, 1B) reached home after a wild pitch. McCrum and Sam Walker reached on errors, but back-to-back strike outs from closer Trevor Nevill ended the game.
The War Eagles have yet to win this year without McCrum on the mound.
"I think it comes down to leadership and competing," Bayer said. "They’re all great kids, but they need to figure out and find a way to win because [McCrum] isn’t going to pitch every game for us. We threw a lot of young guys out there and in all reality, aside from that one big inning, we did a great job. We challenged hitters and got ahead and for the first time, with the exception of when Zach’s on the mound, got zeros in the first two innings [but] didn’t put runs on the board."
"…We’re two games away from region play, so we’re at the point now where we really need to start to figure it out. We’ve got some work to do, but we’ll be OK."
South was scheduled to play at Roswell on Thursday before hosting Tucker on Saturday at 12 p.m.