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Baseball: West thrives in the clutch in win over South
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South Forsyth head coach Russ Bayer congratulates Max Schmal on his home run Friday. - photo by Brian Paglia

West Forsyth head baseball coach Mike Pruitt knew exactly what the Wolverines needed to correct between their loss on Wednesday to North Forsyth and their game on Friday at South Forsyth.

In its 8-5 win over the War Eagles, West didn’t just make the required fixes – it gave South a dose of what the Wolverines had just felt.

West lost 3-1 to the Raiders on Wednesday to see their region record drop below .500, and the lack of offense came even with ample chances to score, as the Wolverines left 13 runners on base against North starting pitcher Tyler Fairchild.

Pruitt had one practice to fix that issue. He drilled West for three hours in situational hitting, presenting his hitters with a situation and the desired outcome. If the Wolverines failed, they ran a sprint to the foul pole and back.

“It wasn’t the extra running (that made the difference),” Pruitt said. “It was the fact that they understand now that we have to do those things.”

West’s early performance on Friday reflected well on Pruitt’s coaching. After Indiana Stanley struck out to lead off the game, Bryar Hawkins doubled, Bowen Bock singled and Hank Flood singled to start the scoring for the Wolverines. They tallied three runs in the first inning.

West found itself behind in the fifth after Max Schmal hit a two-run home run off Hawkins to give South a 5-3 lead in the previous half-inning, but the Wolverines soon had it tied at 5-5 with solo home runs from Hawkins and Flood.

Back in the third inning, South (10-7, 3-3 Region 5-7A) had loaded the bases with no outs against Hawkins, and while the Clemson commit got two strikeouts and was a strike away from squeezing out of the jam, an error let the War Eagles score two runs.

The same situation arose when Zach Burns, throwing in relief of Hawkins, walked two batters and hit another to start the fifth inning. West (9-9, 3-3) had been stymied on Wednesday by a lefty in Fairchild, and on Friday, the Wolverines brought in a southpaw of their own, junior Ryan Ferguson, to deal with the jam.

“I said a little prayer, asked Him to help me get out of this,” Ferguson said. “I made a few good pitches to a few good hitters and the defense backed me up.”

With a flyout to right, a pop-up to second base and another flyout to right, Ferguson was out of it. He led off the next inning with a single for the Wolverines, and West scored three times in the frame to take an 8-5 lead.

The Wolverines had to endure one more jam in the bottom of the seventh – one Ferguson put himself into by allowing three singles – but he got Schmal looking on a frontdoor breaking ball to end the game.

“That may be his highest pitch count of the year – it may be his highest pitch count ever for us,” Pruitt said of Ferguson. “But (he was) certainly up to the task; just so gutsy.”