It hasn’t been the best start for West Forsyth’s baseball team this year, but the Wolverines seem to be gaining steam at just the right time.
West began the young season 1-4, with three of those losses coming by five runs or more. But with their blowout 9-2 win over Gainesville on Wednesday night, West evened their record to 4-4, and it’s a victory that they hope can be a confidence booster heading into their region opener with South Forsyth on Thursday.
“I think everybody had four at-bats tonight, which is good,” West head coach Mike Pruitt said. “We need to see more pitches. Against a team that you think you're a little better than, you hope we can do what we did, which is beat them with no problem. You get a little confidence and a little momentum going.”
One of the things West has had to battle this season is a pitching staff that has taken some hits. After presumptive No. 1 Wyatt Crowell, there are still some questions there, especially after losing two hurlers, one to UCL surgery in the summer and another to Denmark. Matthew Strzelecki, who’s seen a lot of time in the outfield, took the mound for his first start of the season.
It took some time for him to get comfortable. After an error during the game’s first at-bat put Gainesville’s Corbin Lindsay on, he scored on a passed ball with two outs, giving the Red Elephants the early 1-0 lead.
“I had to find my control at the beginning,” Strzelecki said. “I kept the ball up a couple of times with my changeup, (but) I located my fastball pretty well.”
That was the only edge Gainesville would see, thanks in part to the rest of Strzelecki’s performance. He ended his night with four strikeouts over four innings, allowing just one hit and walking one.
“Matthew's been kind of a project for us,” Pruitt said. “He's an outfielder but he did a lot of pitching in the summer. If what we saw tonight was any indication, then we'll see a lot more of him.”
West’s hitters did more than enough to back their starter up. Miller Jones scored Tyler Shea with a single to tie the game. Being patient also helped them -- Drew Southern brought in Barrett Roland with a bases-loaded walk in the same inning. After an RBI groundout from Mark Ellenburg, the Wolverines held a 3-1 lead heading into the second.
The Wolverines essentially put the game away in the third, scoring six in that frame with RBI hits from Southern, Luke Cartenuto and Kyle Peterson. Gainesville starter Harris Bell gave up two bases-loaded walks in that inning as well, and after a two-run error at second, West held a dominant 9-1 lead. Gainesville scored one on an error in the top of the sixth, but with only two total hits, the Red Elephants were not able to put together any kind of late rally.
West knows that facing South will be a tough task to start their region slate, but with a three-game win streak, they feel rejuvenated and ready to compete in a region that feels much more open than it did last year.
“It seems like everybody's kind of leveled out,” Pruitt said. “Last year, our region graduated so many players. I think Milton's pretty strong, but after that, I think it's going to be a toss-up.”