South Forsyth came up just short of a statement win Wednesday night, missing an opportunity to clinch home field advantage in the first round of the state playoffs.
Strong pitching performances by Johns Creek relievers Dylan Dore and Ryan O’Connell led the Gladiators to a 5-4 comeback win over South at War Eagle Field.
“The boys kept fighting,” South coach Russ Bayer said. “Both teams battled the whole time, we exchanged leads both ways, and it was a hard fought game that I expect out of these guys getting ready for the postseason.”
With the loss, South (17-8, 13-6 Region 7-AAAA) is now a half-game behind second place Forsyth Central, which closed the regular season with a 6-1 win against Lambert on Wednesday.
South, however, still controls its own fate in the race for home field advantage in the first round. A victory over Woodland today would give the War Eagles the No. 2 seed and guarantee that at least one round of the playoffs will be played at War Eagle Field.
But Johns Creek put South’s postseason fate on hold, as Justin Friend gave the Gladiators (20-5,17-2) an early 1-0 lead Wednesday with a single into right-center off South starter Daniel Ross, scoring Skye Overton in the top if the first.
South tied the game in the second when Nate Smith scored from third base off a wild pitch by Matthew Gorst (3 2/3 IP, 6 H, 4 R, K).
Zach Sforzo (1-for-3, 2 RBI) then put the War Eagles ahead 3-1 lead with a bases-clearing double off the right field wall, which brought in Andrew Cooley and Sam Walker.
Overton helped manufacture a run to cut the deficit in the third. He reached base on a leadoff single, stole two bases, then scored off a ground out by Brandon Gold.
Steven Siegfried (1-for-3, HR) then tied the game with a home run in the top of the fourth.
In the bottom of the frame, Jesse Gonzalez reached first after Golden threw the ball over first base, allowing Walker to score from second.
After tying the game for the third time in the sixth inning, Chase Solomon scored what proved to be the game-winning run off a sacrifice fly to deep left field by Friend.
Dore and O’Connell combined to throw 3 1/3 shut out innings and three strikeouts to close the door for John’s Creek.
“The best part of this is that we have another opportunity on Friday,” Bayer said. “We’ve got to stay positive, stay mentally strong and execute and we’ll be in good shape.”