Some of the friendliest confines for the West Forsyth baseball team during this year’s Region 5-7A baseball schedule have been, oddly enough, at South Forsyth.
That field has seen the Wolverines obtain two of their most crucial wins: a see-saw 8-5 victory on March 24 and, on Monday night, a 4-3 win in which West climbed back from a 3-1 deficit to prevail in eight innings.
“I don’t know what it is about this place,” Wolverines pitcher Ryan Ferguson said, turning his head to survey his surroundings. “I just always throw well here.”
Ferguson has been the one feeling the bulk of the pressure and drama in the Wolverines’ outings at South. He threw three tough innings of relief to finish the game back in March, working around a runner reaching second or third in every inning.
His outing on Monday was a bit smoother, but it was also longer – Ferguson relieved Wolverines starter Jay Thompson in the fourth inning, worked out of a base-loaded jam there and then threw four more frames after that.
Until the sixth inning, Ferguson was just trying to make sure West didn’t fall further behind. Grant Pearce gave South a 1-0 lead in the first inning with a solo home run, his 10th of the season, and the War Eagles (14-10, 5-5 Region 5-7A) got two more off Wolverines starter Jay Thompson in the third. West (12-12, 5-5) notched a run on Connor Weldy’s RBI single in the second inning.
West’s odds for a comeback didn’t look the most favorable, with the overall lack of offensive production they’ve struggled with this season and the difficulty of facing South ace righthander Landon Sims.
“We haven’t had anybody that just numbers-wise stands out in batting average,” Wolverines head coach Mike Pruitt said. “So we’re about a .230 hitting team, if that. That’s who we are. We’ve played enough games to realize that’s who we are. So now we’ve got to figure out who can make the plays the most.”
Austin Downum hasn’t been West’s everyday starting third baseman, but with the lack of consistency at a spot that Pruitt said is “open,” the senior got a start this past Friday against Marist, had an important late hit in that game and was back in the lineup on Monday.
Downum had an error in the third inning, but he also wound up accounting for much of West’s offensive production. He got the Wolverines’ first hit off Sims, sending the righthander to the deck on a ringing single up the middle in the second, and had another single in the fourth. He had an RBI groundout in the sixth to make the score 3-2 – Connor Weldy singled after that to tie it at 3-3 – and in the eight, on a two-strike count, Downum poked a ball into left field to score Connor Kirley, who had led the inning off with a double.
“We’ve been really working on my two-strike hitting, even though I don’t really like to get to two-strike approaches,” Downum said. “But when I get there, that’s what we’ve been working on, and it showed today.”
Ferguson worked around a single in the eighth to get the win and the save. For the Wolverines, the victory clinched the season series win over South – giving West the tiebreaker, if necessary – and created a three-way tie for third in the region, as Forsyth Central beat second-place Milton 9-0 on Monday to boost the Bulldogs’ region record to 5-5.