West Forsyth and Lambert matched each other number for number for eight consecutive innings, starting with six zeroes. When the scoring finally began, West’s never-say-die attitude was put on to the test.
The Wolverines passed with flying colors.
West answered runs by the No. 4-ranked Longhorns in the seventh and eighth to keep the game going, and Chris Cullen followed a three-base error with a sacrifice fly in the ninth to give the Wolverines a 3-2 walk-off victory over the Longhorns on Monday at Wolverine Field. The Wolverines seized sole possession of second place in Region 6-AAAAAA with two games to play.
"This is my 26th year of coaching high school baseball," West head coach Mike Pruitt said. "I’ve been a part of a lot of really good teams and two state championships, but I have never been more proud of a bunch of kids than I was tonight. They refused to quit.
"It would absolutely crush me to lose a game like that, but that’s two good baseball teams competing."
West (14-9, 8-4 Region 6-AAAAAA) has won six of its last seven games, including six consecutive region victories, while Lambert (15-8, 7-5) has lost six of its last eight games.
Wolverines’ sophomore left-hander Addison Albright took a shutout into the seventh inning, but exited the game on the hook for the loss following an RBI single by Lambert catcher Billy Whitlock. West tied the game 1-1 in the bottom of the frame behind consecutive one-out doubles by Cassandra and Hampton McConnell off Joe Vonderschmidt, who relieved starter Dylan Biumi in the fifth.
"Dylan Biumi got out of jams four innings in a row and ... we had Joe come in, who did equally as good a job," Lambert head coach Jamie Corr said. "[He] left one pitch up in the seventh and McConnell did a great job of taking advantage of our 0-2 mistake.
Said Pruitt: "That is some of the best pitching — on both sides — that you’ll see in a high school baseball game. That’s [the kind of pitching] you see in state championships."
Trey Logan put Lambert back on top 2-1 in the top of eighth with a two-out, bases-loaded single off freshman reliever Mason McWhorter (2 2/3 IP, 5 K, 1 R, 0 ER, 1 H, 2 BB), and Lambert came one out away from sealing the win in the bottom of the inning.
Longhorns closer Danny Edgeworth retired Cullen and Brett Anderson before issuing a four-pitch walk to Hunter Belue, and McWhorter kept the inning going with a bloop single to center. Belue scored from second to tie the game when Cassandra hit an infield grounder that resulted in an error by Logan.
"That was basically a playoff game tonight, and in playoff games you know you have two good teams," Corr said. "When two good teams are battling, the one that makes the most routine plays wins."
McWhorter held the Longhorns scoreless in the top of the ninth to qualify for the win, and the Wolverines caught a break in the bottom of the frame.
Alec Wilson led off and launched a high fly ball to deep center field that Longhorns outfielder Brock Maxwell was never able to locate in the lights. The ball dropped to the grass, allowing Wilson to make it all the way to third base.
Lambert intentionally walked Jacob Hill and Alex DeCubellis to try to set up a force out, but Cullen followed with a long fly ball to left to bring Wilson home.
"You really can have a hard time in this park when it gets above the lights," Pruitt said. "Maxwell is an outstanding player, there’s no question about it; he just couldn’t find it. It’s no fault of his, we were just very fortunate. We battled back to put ourselves in that situation, so I’m not going to call it lucky, we were just very fortunate."
The Wolverines can clinch the second state playoff berth in program history — their first since 2009 — with a victory today at North Forsyth, or a loss by South Forsyth or Alpharetta. West can clinch home field advantage in the first round of the playoffs with a win and a loss by the Longhorns, who face No. 2-ranked Johns Creek today at the Gladiators’ field.
West coaches and players alike have credited the energy and mindset in the dugout for their recent success, and Pruitt reiterated that belief following Monday’s game.
"I always talk to our kids about respecting the game," Pruitt said. "When things don’t go your way you can’t kick dirt and cuss and scream and fight and fuss. You just can’t do it that way and we’re getting better at understanding that there will be another time, there will be another chance. You just can’t treat [the game] that way because if you start treating it that way, it’s going to treat you bad back."
West Forsyth 4, South Forsyth 2
Alec Wilson could have easily lost focus after he started Saturday’s game 0-for-3 with three strikeouts. Good thing his West Forsyth teammates wouldn’t let him get down on himself.
Wilson broke a 2-2 tie with a two-run double in the sixth inning, and the Wolverines won their fifth consecutive Region 6-AAAAAA game with a 4-2 victory over South Forsyth at Wolverine Field.
"My teammates kept me in this game with my three strikeouts at the beginning [weighing on me], they kept me up and kept my attitude good," Wilson said.
"The energy is great in the dugout right now and that’s why we’re winning games."
The game was originally scheduled for Friday but had to be pushed back a day due to rain.
The Wolverines jumped out to an early 2-0 lead off War Eagles’ starting pitcher Zack McCrum (4 1/3 IP, 9 K, 2 ER, 5 H, 5 BB) and held it until the fifth inning, when South answered with two runs.
West’s Sam Sutko reached base with a leadoff infield single in the sixth and advanced to second on a throwing error. Mason McWhorter followed with a single and advanced to second on the throw to the plate, putting runners in scoring position with nobody out.
Two batters later, Wilson ripped the first pitch he got — a low fastball over the middle of the plate — off the right field wall to score both runners.
West right-hander Austin Shea (2 IP, 4 K, 2 H, BB) picked up the win on the mound with two innings of scoreless relief work.