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South baseball hoping early struggles pay off for young team
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South Forsyth baseball is trying to recapture the stability it experienced over the past six seasons. A look at the War Eagles’ winning percentage since 2006. - photo by Brian Paglia

Glancing through the final scores of South Forsyth’s games thus far in 2014, one may be led to think this is a team far from contention. Beyond the stats, however, there lie some reasons to believe the contrary.

Take last Friday’s game against Lambert, for example. The War Eagles fell 12-2 and were victims of the dreaded mercy rule. On the surface, it was a route; the Longhorns dominated in just about every facet of the game and looked every bit like the nationally ranked team that they are.

But had a few small things gone differently, South would have been right there with the Longhorns.

Had South not committed a several untimely errors, Lambert wouldn’t have been able to string together seven runs in a two-inning span. Had the War Eagles executed at the plate in the fourth —when they loaded the bases with no outs — the momentum could have swung their way.

Giving opponents extra outs and failing to execute in the clutch are flaws commonly found in young teams such as this one. And though the learning curve has been steeper than head coach Russ Bayer would like, the progress has been noticeable.

Baseball is a sport of inches, where success and failure are separated by a fine line. South has been finding itself on the wrong side of that divide, but it may not be long before that changes.

"Even though the score doesn’t always reflect it, there’s a lot I’m happy with right now," Bayer said. "They’ve learned a lot. We are young, and we’ve taken a lot of good teams deep in games.

"We’re still missing that one small piece to get over the hump."

Ultimately, that one small piece is experience. Nate Schmal is the lone senior on the club, and five sophomores are on the varsity roster.

The younger guys appear to be learning, albeit slowly, what it takes to win at the high school level — and mistakes like the ones made against Lambert help create a road map to success.

"I don’t think our record shows it, but we’re accomplishing a lot this year," Schmal said. "Other teams are going to look at our record and look down on us and not think much of us, but we know what we can do.

"I think being an underdog will help us in the long run."

Heading into Wednesday’s game at West Forsyth the War Eagles have dropped seven straight and are 0-3 in the region, and they’ve scored just four runs in their last four contests. So yes, they are certainly underdogs.

But this team knows exactly what it is — young and inexperienced, motivated and willing to learn — which will serve them well in the long run.

"Record aside, I still firmly believe we’re right in it," Bayer said. "If these kids do what they’re capable of and their mindsets stay where they need to be, we can definitely hop right back in this."