Rarely this season has Carolina Forest’s backs been put to the wall, forced to dig deep and make something out of nothing.
Each of those occasions, the Panthers did just that – and Monday night would be no different.
Carolina Forest rode the (Green) Wave and won Monday night, fighting back on four separate occasions to claim a 7-6 victory over Summerville in its Lower State AAAA baseball tournament second-round matchup.
Down 5-4 in the fifth, three hits and a pair of errors opened the flood gates enough for the Panthers to plate three runs and seize control of the game.
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“I like the toughness of our guys of hanging in there and not giving in,” said Carolina Forest baseball coach Jack Jolly. “… I think one of the keys in baseball is getting the leadoff runner on, it really puts pressure on a defense. To be honest with you, I didn’t know how many chances we would have, so I was a little bit more aggressive sending runners than I usually am. Fortunately a lot of those opportunities worked in our favor.”
A game featuring two of the state’s top baseball programs, it featured five lead changes and three ties.
Unable to figure out Summerville pitcher Bo Gobin in a matchup earlier this season, the Panthers fared better this time around, scoring seven runs on the Green Wave’s ace.
No one saw him better than Hunter Baiden, however, who was 2-for-2 with a home run in the first and a double that was key in the team’s fifth inning rally.
“I expected a lot of curveballs coming into this game, that’s exactly what I got,” Baiden said. “I sat back on it, waited on it and got good hits. … We saw (Gobin) earlier this year and pretty much knew what to expect. Didn’t do so well the first time, but this time we knew he was coming with that side-armed curve ball and we were ready.”
Summerville struck first with a run in the opening frame, with cleanup man Jack Bahen driving in Brock Tobin. The trickle could have become a deluge if not for the effort of Jakob Frishmuth, though, his strike from right field gunning down base runner Jonny Watts at home plate.
As luck would have it, Frishmuth would also jump-start a two-out rally in the bottom of the first for Carolina Forest with a base hit. Baiden would immediately follow with a home run to left, giving the Panthers a 2-1 lead.
But as would become a recurring theme on this night, the teams took part in a personal game of tit-for-tat, looking to one-up the other.
I expected a lot of curve balls coming into this game, that’s exactly what I got. I sat back on it, waited on it and got good hits. ... We saw (Gobin) earlier this year and pretty much knew what to expect. Didn’t do so well the first time, but this time we knew he was coming with that side-armed curve ball and we were ready.
Carolina Forest’s Hunter Baiden following a 2-for-2, 3 RBI night that keyed the Panthers to victory
Summerville answered with a run in the second to tie the game, before adding two more in the third for a 4-2 lead. The Green Wave seemed primed to add to that lead, but once again Frishmuth’s arm strength revealed itself, gunning down another runner at home plate – this time from the right-field fence.
“Have you ever seen something like that in one game? Two guys thrown out at home plate?” Jolly said. “Those plays by Jakob were huge. Without them we may be looking at an 8-7 loss instead of a 7-6 win.”
In the bottom of the third, an error by Summerville third baseman Rusty Grayson and a pair of wild pitches by hurler Bo Gobin allowed Carolina Forest leadoff man Joey Lewandowski to move to third. He would not stay there long, however, as Robbie Gold’s shot through the left side of the Green Wave infield brought him in to cut the Summerville advantage to 4-3.
The Panthers would knot things up at 4 in the fourth, a Lewandowski single allowing Christian Richardson to cross home plate.
A pair of errors in the top of the fifth would come back to bite Carolina Forest, however, putting a runner at second base. Summerville would make the Panthers pay for their sin, a Gobin double allowing a Green Wave base runner to cruise in for a 5-4 lead.
From there, Carolina Forest would take control.
Following a Frishmuth single into right field, a Baiden double brought brought the Carolina Forest outfielder home to tie the game at 5-5. A Caleb Lindaberry single would bring Baiden in, with an error by Brock Tobin allowing the seventh run of the night for the Panthers to go on the scoreboard.
Summerville added a run in the sixth, but reliever Patrick Orlando retired the Green Wave in order in the seventh.
With the win, Carolina Forest moves on to the Lower State AAAA baseball final, hosting either White Knoll or Summerville on Friday. The Panthers need only one win for the opportunity to play for a state title.
According to Frishmuth, being so close to their goal certainly is great, but the Panthers are not satisfied.
“We have to stay focused on our goal,” he said.
▪ W: Patrick Orlando L: Bo Gobin Top hitters: SUM: Brock Tobin 2-for-4, 2 R; Bo Gobin 2-for-3, R, RBI, SB; Brodie Blanton 3-for-3, RBI. CF: Hunter Baiden 2-for-2, HR, 2B, 3 RBI; Jakob Frishmuth 2-for-4.
▪ Records: Summerville 22-6; Carolina Forest 23-6.