Winning is a mentality.
At least, that is what Mike Pruitt has been trying to instill in his players for six seasons while the head coach at West Forsyth. Across the field sat a team that, according to Pruitt, has that mentality to the greatest degree.
“They have this belief that no matter what the situation is, they’re going to win the baseball game,” Pruitt said. “I kept telling our guys if we come out with that same mentality…we can chip away and win the ballgame.”
In their 5-3 home win on Wednesday, West bought into that never-die ideology.
Wolverines pitcher Jay Thompson found himself in a jam. In just the second inning, the bottom half of Lambert’s lineup loaded the bases with one out. Thompson, a big left-handed pitcher, never lost his composure. He dealt Lambert’s Bobby Gabriel an inside fastball, which turned into an inning-ending double-play.
In the next inning, Thompson hit two batters and another singled to reload the bases. This time, an error cost West from limiting the damage. Josh McAllister’s deep fly ball was dropped with two outs, clearing the bases to give Lambert a 3-0 lead.
Despite the deficit, Thompson and the entire West team knew they just had to chip away.
“We just had to make sure there were no more walks, no more errors,” Thompson said. “Everybody as a whole had to adopt a better mindset. We just had to go out there and overcome.”
After struggling to get the bats going in the first four innings of the game, a leadoff walk sparked the gears for a comeback. A single by Clemson-commit Bryar Hawkins followed, then another walk, then another single from Hank Flood got West on the scoreboard. The Wolverines battled and chipped their way back into the game.
The inning wasn’t over. Zach Burns smoked a shot into the gap to score two more runs, tying the game at three. Thompson helped out his own cause by rocketing a double into the gap to score the final two runs of the game, giving West their 5-3 lead.
“I was just sitting on something off-speed,” Thompson said, “and it just ended up being a changeup and I hit it the other way.”
On Monday night, Lambert found themselves down 4-2 in their final at-bats. That image was looming large in the top of the seventh when Lambert’s leadoff hitter led off the inning. Thompson, out on the mound to finish the complete game, was well aware of Lambert’s ability to rage a comeback. This time, that comeback didn’t happen as Thompson retired Lambert’s top three hitters to seal the win.
“When we were over there [at Lambert] with that 4-2 lead, we didn’t smell blood in the water. We quit circling at that point,” Pruitt said. “But with tonight, they probably didn’t smell the blood in the water when they should have, and we made the most of it.”