Through the first four innings of West Forsyth’s game at North Forsyth, the bunts came off the Raiders’ bats like a pinball machine. They went left and right, came out fast and slow, hugged baselines or chewed up open infield, and the Wolverines were having varying degrees of success in turning them in to outs.
“Got more work off the mound with bunts than I think I’ve gotten in my whole career in high school,” West Forsyth senior pitcher Hank Flood said.
After Paul Ackerman led off the fourth inning with North’s fourth bunt of the game and reached on an error, West head coach Mike Pruitt visited the mound with Flood and his infielders. He had a not-so-shocking prediction for them.
“He was like, ‘They’re going to bunt it here,’” Flood said.
Pruitt was right. Clayton Bardall followed with North’s fifth bunt. Two batters later, Chopper Thronson made it six.
It was a picture of the urgency already infused in Region 5-7A play despite the weeks still remaining. West’s eventual 3-1 victory on Monday in Coal Mountain helped it get back to .500 at 2-2 after dropping its first two games, while North remained winless.
Seeding for the state playoffs already hangs over every game, especially with Region 5 teams matched in the first round against teams from Region 7 that includes perennial Gwinnett County playoff contenders Brookwood, Norcross and Parkview. The top two seeds can avoid them, or at least face them on their own field.
“We all want to get in, but we all know that getting (a) 1 or 2 (playoff seed) is going to be the deal,” Pruitt said.
After Monday, West was tied with South Forsyth for third, a road playoff team, early as it is, but the Wolverines are feeling better after dropping their first two region games against Milton. Three errors aside, West saw some necessary elements come together.
Flood scattered four hits and one walk over seven complete innings while striking out eight. More crucially, he pitched through whatever problems he encountered, whether they were West’s fielding mistakes or his own early struggle to find the feel for his offspeed pitches.
“It took me a couple innings to find it, but once I got going about the third inning, my offspeed really started meshing,” Flood said. “I finally molded with that mound. I seem to struggle here the past couple years on that mound, but I finally got going with it, and once my offspeed started working, I got some confidence rolling on the mound.”
Leadoff batter Indiana Stanley had two hits, including a double in the fifth to break a scoreless tie. Bryar Hawkins followed with an RBI on a sacrifice fly. Connor Weldy’s one-out double in the seventh led to another run. Zach Burns added two hits. All of that spoiled a solid performance from North starter Brody Westbrooks, who struck out seven in 6 2/3 innings but was undone in part by three Raiders errors.
“As long as we understand (that) it doesn’t matter who gets it done as long as West wins, that’s all that matters,” Pruitt said.