By Jeffery Armstrong
Consistency, thy name is not Forest Park.
Once again, the Forest Park Panthers baseball team followed a big win with a loss, this time falling 5-4 to the No. 5 Sandy Creek Patriots Monday afternoon in Region 4-AAAA action at Forest Park.
The Panthers (10-4, 4-4 in the region) were done in by a lack of timely hitting and wildness by starting pitcher Josh Froneberger. Forest Park had seven hits off Patriots pitcher Chad Brooks, but they were scattered and not with many runners in scoring position.
"That's been the story of our season," said Forest Park head coach Quinton King. "The pitching and defense is there, but we just can't get the timely hit. Also, our base running is terrible; we've got to do better at that."
Georgia Tech football signee Calvin Johnson of Sandy Creek hit a home run to left field in the first inning for a 1-0 lead. Forest Park came right back and tied the game at one as DeMontez Lockett scored on an error.
The wheels fell off for Froneberger in the second inning after giving up a leadoff single to Patriots first baseman Jermaine Jones. The senior pitcher got a strikeout and a groundout and was poised to end the inning, but he gave up three straight two-out walks and the Patriots ended the inning leading 2-0.
The third inning was more of the same for Froneberger. He sandwiched two walks around two outs and was burned by Sandy Creek shortstop Brent Brewer, who smacked a 1-1 pitch over the wall in right-center for a three-run homer and a 5-1 Patriots lead.
Kris Eason relieved Froneberger in the fourth inning. Froneberger went three innings, striking out three and walking six while giving up five earned runs on three hits. Eason did a tremendous job in relief, holding the Patriots scoreless in the next four innings, allowing one hit, striking out five and walking three (one intentionally).
"Kris did a helluva job this afternoon," King said.
Unfortunately for Eason, his teammates couldn't complete the comeback. Froneberger (2-for-3, two runs, two RBIs) hit a two-run home run in the fourth inning to cut the Patriots lead to 5-3 with none out. The Panthers had a runner on with one out, but Brooks struck out Eason and A.J. Horton to end the threat.
Forest Park scored another run in the sixth inning to cut the lead to 5-4 and threatened again in the seventh. After Isaiah Froneberger coaxed a one-out walk from Brooks, B.J. McKinney lined a shot to deep center field that had a chance to leave the park, but the wind kept the ball in play and Johnson caught it for the second out. After a single by Josh Froneberger, Brooks got Gerry Hinrichsen to ground out to first to end the game.
Brooks pitched a complete game for Sandy Creek, giving up two earned runs on seven hits, striking out six and walking three. Cody Garner went 3-for-3 for Forest Park.
The Panthers host Stone Mountain today at 1 p.m.