By Steven Watkins
For the Forsyth County News
With the bases empty in the bottom of the seventh of Friday night’s matchup at Forsyth Central, Greg Tasos’s shallow pop-fly sent West Forsyth closer Ryan Ferguson backpedaling off the mound with his face to the sky on a tricky play and an attempt to secure what had looked to be an easy second out in a one-run ballgame.
Ferguson got turned around, fell to the dirt and the ball thudded into the infield, putting the tying run on first and threatening West’s 11-10 lead with only one out.
He responded by striking out his final two batters.
“I couldn’t do anything about it,” Ferguson said on the error that preceded his back-to-back strikeouts. “I just had to move on to the next batter and get the outs.”
There were plenty of things that didn’t go right for the Wolverines. They watched an early four-run-lead evaporate on a pair of homers from Central’s Jonathan Bergmoser and Bradlee Brooks. They saw starting catcher Indiana Stanley ejected from the game in the bottom of the sixth for exchanging words with Central outfielder Jacob Holton, who also was ejected.
They saw a three-run rally in the sixth end one shy of tying thanks to a spectacular, diving double-play by Tasos at second base.
Yet the Wolverines kept swinging bats, making pitches and chipping away at a Central lead that reached as high as 10-6 by the fifth inning. Then, on a 1-2 count in the top of the seventh, West senior Ryan Gray smacked a looping, opposite-field fly ball to left field that batted in his game-leading fifth RBI and regained the lead the Wolverines (6-8, 1-2 Region 5-7A) had been chasing since losing it in the third.
“I was just trying to change the approach on trying to attack the fastball, or if I got started off with a curveball, just trying to work my way into it until I got a fastball,” Gray said. “We talked about before the game we’ve always got to keep our heads up. If they put up a three-spot, we go out and put another three-spot on there.”
Pitching was a mixed-bag for both teams. Central (4-11, 2-1) starter Davis Smith was pulled after giving up four runs on six hits in the first two innings but was followed by a solid relief effort by senior Alex Hoberg, who went three innings with four hits with only one earned run.
West starter Zach Burns’ four-inning effort was marred only by the pair of homers, representing two of his six hits and all five of his earned runs.
“We’ve been struggling on the mound a little bit,” West head coach Mike Pruitt said. “We’ll have a great inning, and then we’ll have a bad inning.”
Shortly before Ferguson’s strikeouts, one of the final key plays of the game for the Wolverines also occurred in the seventh inning. West centerfielder Connor Kirley sprinted, dove and made a sliding-catch on his stomach that ruined what would have been a leadoff single for Central’s Bergmoser.
“We’re still young, and we’re still making some mistakes here and there,” Pruitt said. “I love this team. There’s a lot of heart, there’s a lot of character and there’s a lot of resiliency in this group.”