MARIETTA — It was a tense first game between Walton and South Forsyth on Friday in the Class AAAAAA state playoffs, but the Raiders managed to win 6-4 by stranding 14 and getting timely hits from Tyler Heinrichs.
The second game was more to Walton’s liking. Its offense came early and often, and a four-run sixth inning led to an 11-1 win in six innings.
The top-seeded Raiders (24-3) advanced to the second round to face Hillgrove, which swept Newnan, in a best-of-three series beginning Wednesday.
“When we did get the opportunity, we scored the runs,” Walton coach Shane Amos said. “The first game was kind of an ugly one, but, in the second game, we settled down and did the job.”
Walton ace Zac Kristofak didn’t have his best outing of the year in the opener. He gave up three runs on seven hits and had seven strikeouts, four walks and two hit batsmen.
Three of South Forsyth’s four runs came in the first three innings and had a 3-2 lead going into the bottom of the third inning. Jordan McGriff had an RBI single in the first, Brett Graczyk had an RBI hit in the second and McGriff came home on a wild pitch by Kristofak in the third.
Kristofak’s finer moments came when his team was in the most trouble. He got out of a bases-loaded jam in the second inning by inducing a fly out to center field, and he stranded two more runners in the third after striking out Alex Andronica.
Heinrichs was 2-for-3 with a walk and three RBIs and two runs scored. He led off the third with a double and scored a run to tie the game at 3-all.
Heinrichs gave Walton a 5-3 lead in the fourth with a two-run single, and he added an insurance RBI in the sixth on a sacrifice fly.
The backbreaker for South Forsyth came in the sixth, when the War Eagles left the bases loaded once again. Although they did get one run in the sixth to cut the lead to one, but they could have gotten many more.
Brett Gracyzk and Michael Straight walked on full counts. Alex Kliphouse drew a walk on four pitches, and Justin Grazcyk got an infield hit. But only Brett Grazyck came home, on a wild pitch.
Walton got out of trouble once again when reliever Aaron Toporek struck out McGriff, and Connor Haseley struck out Max Schmal on a full count.
“We had a lot of opportunities to score in that first game, and we had some opportunities to score early in the second,” South Forsyth coach Russ Bayer said. “All that aside, we came out and played hard, and if we had played a cleaner game, we might have pulled it out against the No. 1-ranked team in the state.”
After going 0-for-4 in the first game — with two outs caught against the center-field wall — Jason Rooks managed to get one out of the park in the nightcap. He hit a two-run home run in the fourth inning to give the Raiders a commanding 7-0 lead.
Heinrichs recorded outs in his first three at-bats in the second game, but his fourth plate appearance saw a two-run double in the top of the sixth to help put the game out of reach. Rooks also had an RBI in the inning, and Chandler Miller got an RBI on a bases-loaded walk.
“(Heinrichs) got some big hits in the first game and got that one big hit in the second,” Amos said. “He did exactly what we needed him to do.”