Hoping to clinch an unprecedented sixth straight winning season, the Colonels never trailed in their home finale but had to fight off numerous rallies from the Bulldogs, who themselves were motivated by trying to remain in second place in the region.
Connor Law finally gave Cass the breathing room it needed with his two-run blast in the fifth and Brandon Etheridge earned the save as the Colonels won 6-5.
"Our kids just played relaxed. They played solid baseball. We had several two-out hits, clutch hitting there. The kids played well," said Cass coach Todd Eubanks, whose team was eliminated from playoff contention over the weekend when Lambert picked up its 11th region win. The Longhorns, who grabbed region win No. 12 Monday, hold tiebreakers over both the Colonels and Woodland, who they defeated last Saturday.
"They realize that we're not going to [the] state playoffs, but they were playing for something. With the win tonight, it ensures the winning record, and that's six straight years for us here and it hasn't been done before," Eubanks continued. "I mean, our goals are bigger, but we're taking the stride. Every day we're doing something that hasn't been done before, and then the bottom line is we keep building and [we'll] get to where we need to get to."
Playing the second game out of four this week, Cass had to grab onto this victory mighty tight. The Colonels needed to get the most from their pitchers.
"With four games this week ... we know that our pitching is gonna be stretched thin," Eubanks acknowledged. "I think that Chaz [Wilson] came in, started the ballgame; he threw well. That's the most innings he's thrown this year for us. Dalton [Parham came] in and Brandon threw two, and then they did what they had to do. They put quality innings in and luckily our offense stood up tonight and scored some runs for 'em."
After Wilson exited in the fourth with a 3-0 lead, but with the bags full of runners, Parham couldn't keep Forsyth Central from tying the game up. Dee Kelly's chopper with the bases loaded bounced high over the head of Colonel third baseman Tyler Gates. The hit scored two runs to pull the Bulldogs within one. Michael Branigan's hit to right field drove home the tying run.
Etheridge delivered a two-out single to center in the bottom of the fourth, scoring Chris Morton and allowing Cass to reclaim the lead, 4-3.
A rough fifth inning for Parham had the Colonels facing the possibility of relinquishing the lead. But, despite three walks and a hit batter, Cass' senior surrendered just one run on a fielder's choice as Forsyth Central tightened it up at 4-all.
The Colonels pushed ahead for a third time in the bottom of the fifth when Law smacked a home run over the left-field wall, also scoring Parham who led the inning off with a double to center.
Cass managed to keep the Bulldogs from tying things up once more following the entry into the game of Etheridge, who replaced Parham after his leadoff walk to Branigan in the sixth. Branigan came around to score on Daniel Bermudez's grounder to short, but Etheridge got out of the sixth with a second straight groundout and allowed one base runner in the seventh on a walk before consecutive outs to end the game.
Etheridge finished with one walk and one strikeout in two innings while Wilson allowed three earned runs on three hits, two walks and a hit batter. He also struck out two. Parham, the pitcher of record on the night, gave up two earned runs on two hits, four walks and a hit batter, while striking out two.
David Bermudez was tagged for 10 hits in six innings, giving up six earned runs and also base runners on three walks and one hit batsmen. He recorded four strikeouts.
Bermudez ran into trouble in the third after striking out the leadoff batter. The Colonels had six straight hitters reach base as they produced three runs in an inning that featured RBI singles from Parham and Dylan Williams as well as a run-scoring double to left by Gates.
Parham, who finished 2 for 3 with a double and an RBI, was one of three Cass hitters to accumulate two hits on the night. Law (2 for 3, home run, two RBIs), and Wilson (2 for 3) had a pair of hits, too. Sam Ayers (1 for 3, walk), Etheridge (1 for 3, walk, RBI), Gates (1 for 3, double, RBI) and Williams (1 for 3, RBI) also had hits for the Colonels.
Getting hits for Forsyth Central were Branigan, 2 for 3 (walk, RBI); Spencer Transue, 1 for 3; David Bermudez, 1 for 3 (walk); and Kelly, 1 for 4 (three RBIs).
Cass was slated to play the Bulldogs last Saturday but had to adjust its schedule due to weather. The Colonels' game Tuesday marked the final home game for a handful of seniors, whom Eubanks said have contributed this season as well as in others.
"The seniors that we got are solid citizens; they're solid ballplayers. Good things happen to good people, and those kids there they've been here, they've changed the culture here. They've done some things," the Cass head coach said of players like Law, Parham, Gates, Cameron Ray and first-year transfer Mark Morton. "Connor Law, I can't say enough about [him]. ... He's solid. [He] comes in and he doesn't get enough credit a lot of times. Connor Law's a good ballplayer. Dalton Parham's played every game for us since his freshman year. Tyler Gates has played every game since he came to us as a sophomore ... and then we also got Cameron Ray. He's a gritty catcher. Those kids there, they're solid. We got Mark Morton, [who] moved in as a senior this year. He didn't get as many innings, but he helped us in spots.
"It's nice that we could send those kids out on a winning note, and they give the other ones [who are returning] something to look forward to, [something to try and] beat," Eubanks added.
Cass (14-10, 9-9) has remaining games against Northwest Whitfield today and Creekview Friday. Both games start at 5:55 p.m., and the Colonels will look to improve their place in the region standings as much as possible as the year comes to a close.
"I would like to finish out strong, win the next two, that's two teams we jump past," Eubanks reasoned. "We can't be in the top four, but we can finish in [the] top five, so our goal is finish as high as we can and finish strong and [we intend] to go out as winners. And, that's our plan."