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Baseball: West takes advantage of miscues to earn comeback walk-off win over Lambert

It’s not often that mistake-prone baseball teams end up succeeding.

That’s a truth that West Forsyth head coach Mike Pruitt and his squad knew all too well heading into Wednesday’s home matchup with Lambert. Just two days earlier, mistakes on the basepaths and behind the plate helped cost them an otherwise winnable game against the Longhorns. And right before they took the field for Wednesday's rematch, Pruitt told his team that one of two things was going to happen: They were either going to respond or be worn out.

At first, it didn’t look like West would be avenging their Monday loss, falling behind 5-1 in the middle of the fourth after committing three errors. Midway through the game, though, it was Lambert that made mistakes that led to a tied game, and on the game’s final play, the Longhorns made a throwing error that allowed Blake Whitfield to score from second, giving the Wolverines a 7-6 comeback win.

“We wore them out pretty good after Monday night's game at Lambert, because we played about as poorly as we could play,” Pruitt said. “I’m proud of responding. We had some kids respond and took advantage of their miscues this time. Even down 2-0, we could have went away. We're still really young. We could have gone away and said, ‘Oh well.’”

In the top of the seventh, Lambert tied the game at 6-6 on a bases-loaded wild pitch in the top of the seventh to extend the game to a bottom half. Brock Imbornone led the Wolverines off by reaching second on a throwing error. Whitfield was subbed in for him, and he knew he was a familiar situation.

“We talked about how much they like to back-pick,” Pruitt said. “We said, ‘If they want to back-pick, then we'll bait them into that throw and take that extra base.’”

Sure enough, the throw to second came from catcher, but Whitfield took more than he expected to. A second throw to third was off target, and Whitfield crossed the plate easily for the victory. Lambert had three errors on Wednesday, the same amount as the Wolverines did, but theirs ended up being much more costly.

“It's region baseball, and every day you come out, you need to be able to shut things down and understand that bad things are going to happen,” Lambert coach Rick Howard said. “(You) need to go to the next inning or whatever it is. We've got to do a better job of that. I felt like we were riding really well, and then when something bad happened, we just kind of went to sleep a little bit.”

The game’s turning point was a prime example of that. With two outs in the fifth, a popup to right  from West’s Kyle Peterson was dropped in shallow right center, allowing two runs to score to make it 5-3. Wyatt Crowell followed that up with an RBI triple, and one play later, Luke Cartenuto singled to tie the game. A Marc Ellenburg single in the fifth gave West its first lead at 6-5.

“We've got to take advantage of their mistakes,” Imbornone said. “That’s what we do to a lot of teams, but that was definitely a momentum shift.”

Lambert's Jonathan Hemings and Nate Gabbert opened the game with two RBI hits in the first. In the bottom half, West’s Imbornone knocked in Crowell with an RBI single to make it 2-1, but Lambert scored three more over the next three innings to take a comfortable lead before the Wolverines started their comeback.

West improved to 7-8 overall and 2-4 in Region 5-7A, while Lambert dropped to 5-14, 3-3. Wednesday’s win went a long way in keeping the Wolverines in the hunt for a playoff spot.

“We're going to hope that this is a momentum-builder,” Pruitt said. “We've gotten on a small run before and won four in a row, and we certainly need to keep adding as many wins as we can if we want to stay in this hunt. This region every year, it just beats you up.”