With one runner on in the bottom of the sixth inning on Thursday night, South Forsyth’s Landon Sims was looking for the one pitch he could hit to potentially tie the game, working to a full count against West Forsyth’s Luke Cartenuto.
The matchup couldn’t have been more lopsided on paper: It was a feared Division I signee and future MLB draft pick against a pitcher that had only played JV for the Wolverines before this season.
When Cartenuto’s payoff pitch, a changeup, crossed the plate, the umpire rung Sims up looking. South’s highly-touted player stood in the batter’s box facing his dugout, smiling in disbelief.
“That was the pitch of the night, because that guy can hit one up there on that practice field if you leave it where you're not supposed to,” West coach Mike Pruitt said. “He is a terror in their lineup.”
That’s not how the War Eagles saw it, though. To them, the call was an unlucky addition to their lack of run production against the Wolverines. Despite a Tyler Cowan solo home run closing the gap to one run in the seventh, West ultimately hung on to take a 4-3 win over the War Eagles to open its Region 5-7A schedule on Thursday.
“It never matters how good or bad either one of us are, when West plays South, it just always is this way,” Pruitt said. “It's a great rivalry in baseball: It's kind of that way with these guys. It was good for us, as young as we are, to win a region game like that. I think that's going to help us down the road.”
Wyatt Crowell helped put West in front early, hitting a single to center in the top of the first before an error on the play allowed Drew Southern to score. The Wolverines (5-4, 1-0 Region 5-7A) loaded the bases in the second, with Cowan, South’s starting pitcher, walking three straight hitters. Southern drew the third free pass with the bases loaded, bringing in Barrett Roland. Crowell, who finished 2-for-4, then hit his second single of the night, bringing in two more runs to give West a 4-0 lead in the middle of the second.
South’s pitching rebounded from its early struggles, with Cowan and reliever Peyton Presley sitting down 14 of the next 17 hitters.
“(Presley’s) ball movement was tough,” Crowell said. “I hit that ground ball to shortstop (in the seventh) and it felt like my top hand was about to fall off after it.”
Even with that success from the hill, the War Eagles (6-4, 0-1) were never really able to take advantage. They collected nine hits to West’s five, but left 11 runners on base. Still, Gehrig Frei took advantage of his chance by knocking in Cole Kliphouse in the second to make it 4-1.
But in the fifth, the War Eagles got two runs in scoring position with no outs, but only came away with one after Peyton Rawlins was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded. After Cowan’s home run, Dylan Mazzei represented the tying run at second with two outs left, but once again, South couldn’t capitalize.
“When you get guys in scoring position and you leave a small village on the bases, that's not a good thing,” South coach Russ Beyer said. “We didn’t execute in situational baseball when we needed to.”
Cowan finished his night 3-for 4 at the plate and struck out eight over 5 2/3 innings. West’s Tyler Shea got the win, allowing two runs and striking out four over five innings.