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West baseball clings to hope of region title
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Junior left-handed pitcher Addison Albright is committed to Georgia and is part of a deep West Forsyth pitching staff. - photo by Brian Paglia

West Forsyth’s baseball team has gotten off to a strong start in the 2014 season, posting a solid 11-4 record through 15 games. Still, the Wolverines have a lot to prove.

Heading into Tuesday’s contest against South Forsyth, a game that ended too late for this edition, West sported a 3-2 mark in Region 6-AAAAAA action, which puts them in a big of a hole moving forward. Those two losses placed the Wolverines three games back of first place, but their goal remains a region title — and if that’s going to happen, they’re going to need to rack up some wins this week.

After playing South, West will take on Lambert on Wednesday and North on Friday. Once those three region contests are in the books, they’ll have a much better idea where they stand.

"Our first goal is to win the region, and that’s still out there — we haven’t conceded yet," said head coach Mike Pruitt. "We just have to take care of our business and we’ll see where we fall out."

By far the biggest match-up in this stretch will be against the Lambert Longhorns (18-0, 6-0), which sits atop the region with an unblemished record. One of their most impressive wins came against West, an 11-1 drubbing that brought a then-11-2 West squad back down to earth.

However, Pruitt maintains that loss wasn’t as ugly as the score may indicate. Of the Longhorns’ 11 hits that day, 10 were singles, one of which came via a bunt. Had a few bounces gone a different way, and had some of those hits not found gaps in the field, the game could have gone very differently.

"I told our boys not to let that score define us or our season," Pruitt said. "We have to think that got out of control. We always talk about taking care of our own business, and that day we didn’t give ourselves a chance to win.

"That loss puts us in a different situation, it makes it tougher — but it doesn’t mean we can’t beat them next time around."

The Lambert loss aside, there is a lot of evidence that West is indeed a contender. The offense has been red hot out of the gate, scoring double digit runs in six of its 15 games. Only twice have they scored less than five runs, one of which they won, 2-0.

Alec Wilson. Chris Cullen and Mason McWorter are leading the way at the plate — all three batting above .500. Four other hitters are just below that threshold, giving West a well-rounded and lethal lineup from top to bottom.

"We’re hitting the ball well, and we have to keep that up the rest of the year," Pruitt said. "We’re capable of scoring a lot of runs, even though some nights it doesn’t add up. But we have a lot of guys doing their jobs at the plate."

West’s pitching has been strong, as well, surrendering just 4.5 runs per game. Johnny Cassandra has been at the forefront of this success, striking out 24 batters in 24 innings to go along with just six walks. Connor Milford has also fared well on the mound, as has Wilson.

If the Wolverines can pull an upset against Lambert—or at least remain competitive through seven innings—it could provide this group with the confidence needed to make West a legitimate contender.

"They’re a team that is very opportunistic, so we just have to limit their chances," Pruitt said of Lambert. "They’re going to get their runs, but we’re going there on Wednesday with every intention to win that ball game."

If a region title becomes out of reach, West still has a lot to play for down the stretch: The Wolverine can receive a home game in the state tournament by finishing second in the region. After bowing out in the first round of the state tournament last year, getting that night of home field advantage could make the difference in whether or not they can improve upon 2013.

"It’d be huge for us," Pruitt said. "At the end of the day, I think we’ll be right there in the thick of things."