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Baseball: West crushes Cambridge
Wolverines’ bats back Cassandra’s solid start
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West Forsyth junior right-hander Johnny Cassandra fields a sacrifice bunt and throws out Matt Motz on Friday at West. - photo by Jared Putnam

Johnny Cassandra often looked like he was in a hurry during his four innings of work on the mound against Cambridge.

With the way West Forsyth was scoring runs, it’s no wonder the junior right-hander wanted to get his teammates off the field and back to the plate.

Cassandra breezed through the top of the first inning on only 10 pitches and his offense rewarded him with five runs in the bottom half of the frame, as the Wolverines dominated from start to finish in a 13-3 victory over the Bears in six innings on Friday at West.

Cassandra (4 IP, 7 K, 1 ER, 3 H) came to West (2-2) after spending last season at Blessed Trinity and has been a pleasant surprise for the Wolverines this spring.

"We really didn’t know a whole lot about him," Wolverines head coach Mike Pruitt said. "He’s looked really good in scrimmages and things like that.

"He had an outing the other night in relief and wasn’t real sharp, [but I wasn’t] sure he had enough time to prepare [for that appearance], so we gave him a start tonight so he had time to get ready and he looked sharp. [He had] good command of his breaking stuff and that’s key for him."

Cassandra struck out the first two batters he faced and induced an inning-ending flyout to get West back in the dugout in the first inning.

Cambridge (1-4) starting pitcher Mitchell Thelen wasn’t as fortunate.

West’s first six batters reached base courtesy of four singles, a walk and an error.

Alec Wilson and Jacob Hill led off the bottom of the first with back-to-back singles before Alex DeCubellis (2-for-3, 2 RBI, 2 RS) followed with a run-scoring infield single. Two batters later, following a walk to Chris Cullen, Hampton McConnell brought Hill home with a single to center field.

The Wolverines added their third run on an error and scored two more when Brett Anderson grounded into a fielder’s choice.

West made scoring runs look easy at times Friday night, but with temperatures dipping below 40 degrees, Hill said fighting the elements sometimes seemed like half the battle at the plate.

"You want to hit the ball definitely on the right part of the bat or your hands go numb and your eyes get watery in the box sometimes, too," Hill said, "but we’re making the adjustments and we’re seeing the ball well."

Cambridge cut the lead to 5-1 in the second inning, but the Wolverines tacked on four more runs in the bottom of the fourth with the help of three wild pitches and a passed ball.

Wilson (3-for-4, 2B, 2 RBI, 2 RS, 2 SB) and Cullen (3-for-3, 2 2B, 4 RBI) did the bulk of the damage in the inning with run-scoring doubles. Cullen delivered his second two-run double of the game in the fifth — almost in the exact same spot inside the third base line — and Wilson invoked the mercy rule with a run-scoring hit in the sixth.

Pruitt said he was pleased to see Wilson and Cullen break out of early slumps.

"[They] have been struggling a little," Pruitt said. "Good to see those guys [come through]. They have  to swing the bats well for us to be successful offensively."

West’s one and only state playoff appearance came in 2009, when the then second-year program was still in Class 3A. The Wolverines will compete in Region 6-AAAAAA this season along with North Forsyth, South Forsyth and Lambert.

Pruitt, who took over as head coach last season, said he considers Johns Creek the team to beat in the region following its appearance in the Class 4A state semifinals last season, but he feels the race for spots in the state playoffs is largely wide-open.

"We’ve got some young players in the lineup," Pruitt said. "If they’ll grow up fast and mix in with these seniors that are getting a lot of playing time, then we might have a chance to get in [the playoff mix] somewhere."

Said DeCubellis: "We definitely just want to give it our all this season because [as seniors] it’s our last one. Hopefully it turns out well for us."

West was scheduled to travel to Milton on Saturday and will host Kennesaw Mountain (Tuesday, 5:55 p.m.) and North Gwinnett (Wednesday, 5:55 p.m.) this week. Region 6 play begins March 20.