SUWANEE — A couple extra days of preparation didn’t help West Forsyth’s bats break out of their postseason funk.
Peachtree Ridge senior right-hander Jonathan Hudson faced the minimum number of batters through six innings, and the Lions won their first state playoff series in program history with a 5-1 victory over West in Game 3 of the Class 6A opening round series Monday at the Lions’ Den. The game was originally scheduled for Saturday but had to be postponed due to rain.
Hudson (6 1/3 IP, 7 K, 3 H, 2 BB) pitched into the seventh inning after allowing only two baserunners through the first six innings, both of whom were erased on double plays.
The Wolverines (16-12) produced just six runs in the three game series — their first postseason appearance since 2009.
"We knew [Hudson] was a good pitcher and that he did pitch backwards — meaning that he threw the curveball and changeup more so than the fastball," West head coach Mike Pruitt said. "We were a little shocked that he didn’t throw Game 2 and we knew we’d have our hands full because of that."
No. 3 seed West won the coin toss and played as the home team, but the move allowed the No. 2 seed Lions (19-10) to provide Hudson with a solid lead before he ever took the mound.
Tyler Haswell, Anthony Perez and Drew Wharton all delivered run scoring singles off West starting pitcher Austin Shea in the top of the first, and the Lions could have had more if not for a failed squeeze bunt attempt.
Wolverines leadoff hitter Alec Wilson started the bottom of the first with a single, but West’s momentum was quickly squashed when Alex DeCubellis flew into a double play on a hit-and-run attempt.
"We were going to run even though we were down by three," Pruitt said. "Our deal was, we were going to be aggressive. We flew into a double play and that kind of put the brakes on our aggressiveness a little bit."
West experienced more of the same misfortune in the second inning. Chris Cullen led off with a single only to be erased on the basepath when Brett Anderson grounded into a 6-4-3 double play.
The Lions’ defense seemed perfectly positioned time after time throughout the night.
"We hit right into their shift," Pruitt said. "I don’t know how many balls we hit up the middle into their shortstop’s glove that are typically hits.
"Alec Wilson hit gappers the other night that we didn’t get anything out of [today] because their center fielder is playing in shallow right-center. So I don’t know if that’s an alignment they have all the time or if it was just for us, but if it was just for us, they did their homework."
Hudson retired 14 consecutive batters after Cullen’s single and never allowed West to take advantage of a solid relief performance by Conner Millford.
Millford relieved Shea after the first inning and held the Lions to two runs the rest of the way.
Drew Wharton led off the fourth inning with a double and Blake Best followed with an infield single. Wharton came in to score on a bases-loaded walk to Cam Shepherd, and Best tallied the Lions’ final run on a sac fly by Cooper Burdick.
Hudson finally ran into trouble in the seventh when he allowed a leadoff single to Wilson, then loaded the bases with one out via walks to DeCubellis and Jacob Hill.
Haswell came on in relief and struck out Anderson before surrendering a run-scoring single to Sam Sutko.
Hunter Belue came to the plate representing the tying run, but Haswell struck him out looking to end the threat and send the Lions to the second round to face Parkview.
"I’m proud of these guys," Pruitt said. "Our senior class has never played in a playoff game, and that’s a stepping stone for this program in the right direction. I’m so proud of them for leading us to this.
"The challenge now for our underclassmen is to say, ‘We got there, now it’s not enough, we need to continue on and move on. We’ve got a very strong underclass [with] a lot of great pitching."