West Forsyth pitcher Johnny Cassandra likes to remind batters that he owns the plate by blowing fastballs right by them.
The junior right-hander commanded the zone, as he tallied nine strikeouts to guide West past Chattahoochee 7-3 on Thursday at Wolverine Field.
"I just got mentally prepared for the game and just knew what I had to do," Cassandra said. "I just felt like [the plate] was my territory and I had to protect it.
"I just try to get guys out. I threw good pitches and they just didn’t swing."
Cassandra (6 IP, 1 ER, 4 H, 9 K, 1 HBP) gave up his only run in the first inning after Zach Huet singled and moved to third on Jordan Einstein’s single to right field. Einstein then purposefully got in a run-down at second to allow Huet to score, but that was the last time the Cougars (4-8, 0-1 Region 6-AAAAAA) threatened with Cassandra on the mound.
The Wolverines (7-4, 2-0) evened the score in the bottom half of the frame as Jacob Hill reached second on an error by the right fielder and crossed the plate after Alex DeCubellis (2-for-4, 1B, 2B, 1 RS) doubled down the left field line.
West broke the tie in the second inning with four runs. Hampton McConnell (1-for-1, BB, 2 B, 1 RS) walked and moved to third on Reed Johnson’s single to right field.
Hunter Belue walked to load the bases for Josh Tate who grounded into a fielder’s choice, but brought McConnell home. Johnson then scored on a wild pitch before Alec Wilson picked up an RBI bunt to score Belue. Wilson stole second, took third on a groundout and made his way home on a passed ball to give the Wolverines a 5-1 lead to end the inning.
Cassandra continued his stellar pitching performance as he allowed only two hits in five innings, while striking out three straight batters in the fourth inning.
The Wolverines tacked on two more runs in the fifth inning off Michael Dibrill (4 1/3 IP, 6 ER, 7 H, 6 K, 2 BB) with Brett Anderson’s RBI double to score DeCubellis from first and McConnell’s double to bring home Anderson and make the score 7-1.
Chattahoochee tried to rally in the seventh inning as Kern Griffin hit a two-out RBI double to score Colin Zweber and Jeff Mullavey, but it fell short when reliever Chris Adams struck out Einstein to end the game.
"That was a little better," West head coach Mike Pruitt said.
"You got to throw strikes, that’s where it starts. … We played a pretty clean game and we did a lot of good things in situations. Our bunting was better, our base running was better and we didn’t just have those mental lapses that we’ve been having. I’m more concerned and proud that we’re changing that part of the game than any other thing."