Northgate loss creates logjam in region
by Chris Goltermann
Starr's Mill and crafty left-hander Ryan Avidano didn't waste anytime yanking Northgate's baseball team back into the thick of this year's state playoff race in Region 4-AAAAA on Wednesday.
Avidano needed just 67 pitches, nearly 50 of them for strikes, to blank the Vikings in a two-hit, complete-game shutout that left the Vikings stinging following a 5-0 loss to the Panthers.
Panther senior center-fielder Ryan Peurifoy went 3-for-3 with a sacrifice fly while driving in four of five runs for Starr's Mill, which improved to 11-5 and 9-3 in region play.
The loss drops Northgate (11-5, 8-3) even with the Panthers among five teams in 4-AAAAA in second place in the region, one game back of McIntosh (11-3, 9-2).
They include Whitewater (9-5, 6-3), who had dominated Starr's Mill on Monday 11-1, and now will host the Vikings on Friday in another key battle for positioning before teams break for next week.
Two days after being thumped by Whitewater, Starr's Mill turned the ball over Avidano and the junior came through with a eight-strikeout effort that came without a Northgate runner reaching third base.
The lefty's only mistakes came in the first when Tyler Dahlberg lofted his first pitch to right and a two-out double by James Poropatic in the sixth. Both were left stranded by Avidano, who after recording the final out of the first, sent down 12 straight Northgate batters, four on lazy flyballs and five others on strikes while retiring 21 of 23 batters faced.
"He's a good pitcher and all, but we also made it easy on him," said Northgate head coach Greg Hamilton. "We did a lot of reaching for balls, popping things up."
Not helping matters — especially for Viking starter Matt Farmakis— were three Northgate errors between the first and second innings. The team bungled two more plays that could have counted for another pair that allowed Panthers to reach.
"Three errors for us was generous today. I had us for at least five," Hamilton said.
Farmakis kept solid command throughout while allowing four runs, but just two earned. He threw just 74 pitches, 52 for strikes without yielding a walk while able to strand eight Starr's Mill runners on base.
Two misplayed balls by Northgate opened the game in the top of the first, a trend that followed Starr's Mill at the plate. The Panthers scored single runs in the first, second, third and fifth — all among rallies where the leadoff batter reached.
Farmakis nearly pitched himself out of trouble in the first after Kevin Port and Connor Dillion both reached base on grounders to the right side of the infield to open the game. After a sacrifice bunt and a strikeout, senior Ryan Peurifoy singled through the left side for a 1-0 lead.
Peurifoy also drove in runs in the third, fifth and seventh innings. His last hit was a double into the gap in right-center off Northgate reliever Armond Upshaw that scored Artermis Kadkhodaian.
A dropped fly in right haunted Farmakis' effort in the second after the Vikings looked to get out of a similar jam when first-baseman Jordan Schmits quickly fired to second to catch a Starr's Mill runner Adam Goodman dangling off base following a groundout.
The Northgate right-hander, however, didn't help himself in the third and fifth while allowing leadoff runners aboard. Kadkhodaian — who was plunked in both innings on inside pitches near the plate — scored in the third on Peurifoy's one-out single.
In the fifth, after allowing a leadoff single to Dillion to go with Kadkhodaian's ensuing free pass, Peurifoy's fly ball to deep right pushed the Starr's Mill lead to 4-0.
Northgate was wearing special jerseys to promote Autism awareness for the second time this season. The team will wear the black uniforms with multi-colored numbers and the word "AUTISM" on the back again on April 20 and April 27.
The program is looking for businesses to make donations by sponsoring innings for upcoming games. Proceeds will go to the Special Education Department of Coweta County. Those interested can contact Amy Byrd at 770-855-5581 or Shelly Allen at 404-519-7855.