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High school baseball: Gainesville downed by inspired Wolverines
Gainesville second baseman Will Maddox (1) looks on as shortstop Stephen Mason (14) prepares to throw the ball to first base for a double play, after stepping on the bag for the out at second base against West Forsyth on Thursday in Cumming. - photo by By Jared Putnam

CUMMING — Sidelined West Forsyth head coach Byron Orr provided his team with a little extra spark of motivation in the Wolverines matchup with Gainesville on Thursday night.

With Orr hospitalized after some internal bleeding of the chest, the Wolverines showed they can get it done without their skipper, pulling out a 5-2 win over visiting Gainesville.

"Without a doubt, (we were) trying to win one for the Gipper," Wolverines assistant Justin
Rickett said.

The game entered the bottom of the fifth as an old-fashioned pitchers’ duel with the teams tied 2-2.

West Forsyth (12-3 overall, 12-2 Region 7-AAA) broke the stalemate by playing some small ball, as Jared Horowitz led off the frame with a single, then moved to second on a sacrifice groundout from Michael Moch.

Gainesville was charged with interference on Horowitz’s attempt to take third on an errant pickoff attempt during the next at-bat, which put the senior 90 feet from home plate with two outs.

A bouncing single into center field from Reese Patten brought the run home, making it 3-2.

It was the long ball that really put the Red Elephants (8-8, 8-7) in a hole as Chris Rubessa lifted the first pitch he saw in the sixth inning over the left field wall, plating two runs after Tommy Ferguson (2-for-3, triple, RBI, two runs) tripled to lead off the frame.

One at-bat later, Gainesville starter Erik Tarnacki was done, finding himself with a 5-2 deficit despite holding the Wolverines to six hits in five-plus innings of work.

"Erik pitched good, he pitched real good," Gainesville coach Jeremy Kemp said.

"He was worn out by the end of the game, and they got to him. They did a good job hitting. They got some good swings, and he battled. That’s all you can ask for."

Gainesville went 1-2-3 in the seventh facing Rubessa during his only inning of work on the mound, which followed five innings from Michael Moch — his first outing since a perfect game against Pickens — and one from Horowitz.

"They did a great job, and they came in and threw strikes and got people out. That’s exactly what we want them to do," Rickett said of his three pitchers.

Wolverine pitchers ended up with 10 strikeouts on the afternoon.

Gainesville ended up with five hits on the day, West Forsyth had seven.

"We struggled a little bit hitting, but that’s a great pitcher, Moch. Tip your hat to him," Kemp said.

"We did a good job working the count, so we had him at 100 pitches, I believe, in the fifth inning ... They got the big hits and we didn’t. That was the difference in the game."

After consecutive hits to lead off the first inning, West Forsyth’s bats weren’t heard from again until the fifth, when Horowitz’s single got things going.

"I thought we were a little too aggressive offensively at first, and when we started taking a few pitches and seeing a few more pitches, then that ultimately resulted in more success at the plate — more patience, seeing balls in the strike zone," Rickett said.

Gainesville managed to get on the board first, leading off the game with a Stephen Mason walk and a bunt single by Will Maddox to put runners at the corners for Mark Casper (2-for-4, double, RBI), who lifted a long fly ball to center field with one out, sacrificing himself to bring in Mason and make it 1-0.

West Forsyth opened its half of the first with two straight hits and scored twice to take the lead.

A double from Harold Earls was followed by a shot to left field from Ferguson — a single combined with an error in the outfield which gave Earls plenty of time to come home. Rubessa hit into a sac grounder on the next at-bat to score Ferguson.

Gainesville tied it up in the top of the third on a seeing-eye single to left from Casper, scoring Maddox after he singled to lead off.

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