LILBURN – West Forsyth junior pitcher Addison Albright was about to walk off Hugh Buchanan Field at Parkview when Wolverines head coach Mike Pruitt stopped Albright as he reached first base. Pruitt pulled down the 6-foot-3 left-hander, hugged him and said, “That was masterful.”
Indeed, Albright’s complete game performance in West’s 3-0 victory over No. 1 seeded Parkview in Game 2 of the teams’ Class AAAAAA first round series was both dominant and paramount for the Wolverines after a 5-4 loss in Game 1.
Albright’s mastery forced a decisive Game 3 on Saturday at 1 p.m., the winner of which will advance to play Walton, who swept Peachtree Ridge, 5-0 and 3-1.
“I had to get the guys back up,” Albright said. “We’d just lost a really close game. We could’ve won it there in the end. I wanted to have them feed off of what I’m doing up there on the mound, and they did.”
“It was special,” Pruitt said. “Really special. That’s a good baseball team he beat.”
Albright produced the signature performance of the doubleheader, a distinction that often went to Parkview’s Game 1 starter, senior Mac Marshall, this season. The 6-foot-2, 200-pound left-hander, who signed with LSU and is expected to be an early-round pick in the Major League First-Year Player Draft next month, entered the series with a 0.31 ERA in 44 2/3 innings. Over a dozen scouts were in attendance, radar guns aimed at every pitch Marshall threw.
Normally controlled, Marshall struggled with his command, allowing six hits and walking three. West touched him for a run in the first inning and another in the fourth on a sacrifice fly from Alec Wilson. The Wolverines had the bases loaded in the second and fourth innings. Marshall left after five innings with the game tied at 2-2.
Parkview needed pinch-hit doubles by Johnathan Whitmer and Brian Kregel off West starter Johnny Cassandra and reliever Connor Milford to take a 5-2 lead in the bottom of the sixth inning. The Wolverines responded – Wilson and Mason McWhorter led off the top of the seventh with back-to-back home runs to cut the lead to 5-4.
Three outs later, West was a game away from being eliminated.
“It’s tough to come back from a one-run loss,” Pruitt said. “It just seems to take the wind out of your sails. We were that close.”
To the mound stepped Albright in Game 2.
Expectations followed the junior this season, especially after he committed to Georgia. But Pruitt said Albright struggled much of the season. Even in his last outing, an encouraging start in which he pitched three scoreless innings, Albright had to leave with cramps.
The cramps returned Friday before the second inning as Albright threw his warm-up pitches. He stopped after a few and clutched his left leg. Parkview’s trainer came out and stretched Albright, but the leg flared up sporadically throughout the game. Between innings, Albright stretched in the dugout. After one of his nine strikeouts, Albright would walk behind the mound for a quick stretch. Albright said he didn’t drink enough fluids or move enough during Game 1.
“You’ve got to work through that stuff if you’re going to win,” Albright said.
This time, Albright was in control. He didn’t allow a hit until the third inning. He allowed only five base runners, and only one reached second base. Six of his nine strikeouts came on swings-and-misses as he relied on a lively fastball and curveball to flummox Parkview hitters.
“Wow, he pitched,” Pruitt said. “He didn’t just throw. He pitched.”
West didn’t have much luck with Parkview Game 2 starter Christian Vann either. The Wolverines were hitless through four innings and managed just two hits total.
When West first baseman Brett Anderson led off the fifth inning with a walk, Pruitt took advantage of the Wolverines’ place in the lineup. Payton Spessard, pinching running for Anderson, advanced to second when Jordan Harris bunted back to Vann, whose throw to first was wide. Both scored on Josh Tate’ bunt that Parkview first baseman Isiah Gilliam fielded but threw into the left field foul territory trying to get Spessard at third. Nate Schmitz added an RBI single.
West suddenly led 3-0 and that was plenty for Albright.
“We got in a situation in the right batting order with the right people up to bunt,” Pruitt said. “They executed perfectly. Fortunately for us they threw a ball away, and we took advantage of it. And then Addison came in and just shut the door.”