West Forsyth plummeted in the standings early this week, and that was before any Region 6-AAAAA teams even played a game. When the Wolverines did get on the field Tuesday, their postseason hopes only faded farther away.
West surrendered five runs to Alpharetta in the fourth inning and couldn’t finish off a seventh-inning rally, suffering a 6-4 loss to the Raiders at Wolverine Field. The loss snapped the Wolverines’ three-game winning streak.
Earlier in the week the Wolverines learned that rival Centennial must forfeit five of its victories. As a result, Alpharetta, North Forsyth and Northview saw their records improve by one game apiece, dramatically altering the standings with less than a week to play and pushing West’s state playoff hopes to the brink.
“We went from third place to last place without even playing,” West coach Mike Pruitt said.
“We may [or may not be] out mathematically, but it’s going to take a miracle somewhere else to even give us a shot, and we would definitely have to win out.”
West (13-11, 4-6 Region 6-AAAAA) was unable to make up ground in the standings Tuesday despite winning the hitting battle 10-9 over Alpharetta (11-13-1, 6-5). The Wolverines stranded 11 baserunners in the game and left the potential tying and winning runs on base in the bottom of the seventh.
“[It’s been that way] in a number of our losses,” Pruitt said of out-hitting opponents.
“I told our guys ... you can’t waste an at-bat, you can’t waste a pitch. Every pitch, every at-bat may make the difference.”
West trailed 1-0 heading in the fourth, before Alpharetta touched up Wolverines starting pitcher Trevor Guthrie for five runs on seven hits in the top of the frame. The damage could have been worse, but the Wolverines recorded two outs in the inning by catching Alpharetta baserunners trying to stretch singles into doubles.
Jonathan Kizzar (3 IP, K, 0 R, 3 H) took over on the mound for West in the fifth and tossed three scoreless innings of relief. The Wolverines’ defense backed him up with two inning-ending double plays, including a nice play by outfielder Graham Bunting, who robbed Evan Trout of an extra base hit near the right field wall and doubled off Conley on the basepath in the seventh.
The Wolverines finally cut into the lead in the bottom of the fifth, when Bunting (3-for-4, RBI, R) and Brett Anderson delivered RBI singles off Raiders starting pitcher Bryce Conley, scoring Will Skidmore and Brent Odum (2-for-4, R).
Conley, a junior right-hander, allowed two earned runs on eight hits while struck out eight in six innings of work.
“Hats off to the guy that threw tonight,” Pruitt said of Conley. “He’s not going to overpower anybody, but he knows how to pitch. He works in and out, does a great job with the changeup.”
Bunting got the comeback bid started in the seventh with a one-out single to left off Raiders reliever Austin Holtzer. Bunting moved to second when Alex DeCubellis was hit by a pitch, then scored on a two-out single by Jacob Hill (2-for-4, 2B, RBI).
Hunter Belue followed with a walk, prompting Alpharetta to replace Holtzer on the mound with Josh Dobbs.
But Dobbs immediately uncorked a wild pitch that scored DeCubellis and moved the tying runs into scoring position, then walked Jordan Cain to load the bases.
Pruitt pinch hit Chris Cullen for Lance Belue, but Cullen chased a high pitch on a 3-1 count and fouled out near the Wolverines’ dugout to end the game.
“Chris probably swung at ball four, but he wasn’t the only one tonight that swung at ball four tonight,” Pruitt said.
“You can’t wait around for six and two-thirds innings and hope a miracle happens.”
West must defeat region-leading, No. 2-ranked Milton today on the road to have any shot at a postseason berth. The Wolverines close the regular season Friday at home against Northview.