Wall was one of the catalysts for the West Forsyth baseball team this season

Published 12:08 am Tuesday, May 31, 2022

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By Jay Spivey
For the Clemmons Courier

The West Forsyth baseball team just finished its season after going 25-6 overall and 11-3 in the Central Piedmont 4-A.

And much of that success is attributed to a senior class that included 10 players. One of those senior stalwarts is Cam Wall, who played first base and pitcher. But it was a circuitous route for Wall to even end up at West Forsyth four years ago.

Wall, who has signed to play at Belmont Abbey, and his family live in Yadkinville. But from kindergarten through seventh-grade, Wall went to Calvary Day School in Winston-Salem.

“I was playing baseball at (Calvary) and they wanted me to be a varsity guy as a seventh-grader,” he said. “And I was like, ‘I don’t think this is the right move. All my siblings (sisters Kaitlyn (24, graduated from Calvary), Meredith (21, left the same year as Cam and graduated from Davie County), and Mallie (14, currently at Calvary) went to Calvary, and that’s why I did. And at that point, as a seventh-grader, I just told my dad (Brad) that I needed to go somewhere that’s best for me, athletic-wise.”

He then left there and went to Ellis Middle School in Davie County for eighth grade before ending up at West Forsyth in ninth grade.

There was only one point where that plan could’ve changed for Wall.

“At one point where I thought I was happy because I left Calvary and I didn’t think I’d be able to get into the public school system in Davie or West because of my being out of district,” Wall said. “And we weren’t going to move because it’s just too much to do that. So, there was a little bit of time where we thought about going to Forbush.

“I grew up playing (Little League) at Southwest, and I grew up playing with the people I just finished playing my season with. We’ve been playing together since we were 8. At that time, I was just thinking it probably would be best that if I started playing with my friends, why not finish with them?”

West Forsyth became a possibility because he knew former Principal Charles McAninch, who is now the principal at Lewisville Middle School, and he knew David Small, who is an assistant principal at West Forsyth.

Although Wall was new to West Forsyth, he was familiar with Coach Brad Bullard.

“I had seen him play in travel ball,” Bullard said. “Obviously, any time you hear a left-handed pitcher is coming in that’s always a good thing.”

Even as a freshman Bullard knew that he had a special talent in Wall.

“Great kid. Played first base, swung it from the left side, swung it very well, pounded the strike zone,” Bullard said. “Any time you get a freshman lefty who can pick it, and a freshman lefty arm in, that’s always exciting.”

Wall played both varsity and JV as a freshman, doing whatever the team needed.

“He pitched a little for us as a freshman,” Bullard said. “…Full circle, his freshman year in the conference tournament, we brought him in, I think it was against Davie and he got the save as a freshman in relief.

“Fast-forward through the pandemic, now Cam’s a senior, we brought him against East Forsyth (in this year’s conference-tournament championship), and same thing, he closed the game out for us for the win. So, that’s pretty cool.”

During Wall’s sophomore season, he and the rest of the Titans only had a chance to play four games because the season was halted because of COVID-19.
Although Wall’s seasoning was stunted by the shortened season as a sophomore, Bullard said Wall improved between his freshman and junior seasons.

“That whole group, we had 10 seniors this year,” Bullard said. “And a lot of those seniors played on varsity as either a freshman or a sophomore, which at West Forsyth, really (NCHSAA Class) 4-A, but really a program like ours that doesn’t happen often. So, to see those kids come in sort of normal freshmen — sort of small, lanky freshmen, and now, you look at a lot of those guys, him included, they’re 6-foot-plus, 175 pounds-plus. Just to see how much physically they’ve matured, but for me and this group, it was more mental.

“This group is really tight-knit. They were just such good leaders. And on any occasion, like Cam, Payton, Reid (Withers), Lucas (Manning), you know a lot of those guys, they were sort of an extension of our coaching staff. I could look over there at first base with Cam and he’d be over there working with the underclassmen at first base.”

Wall’s skills as a first baseman shined.

“I don’t know if he made an error at first base this year,” Bullard said.

As a pitcher, mostly a reliever, Wall gave the Titans exactly what they needed.

“He’s more of a finesse-type pitcher,” Bullard said. “Really good offs-peed. Really, really, really good changeup, And then we would use him in lefty-lefty matchups.”

West Forsyth finished 8-6 overall and 6-4 in the conference in a shortened season in 2021. The season ended with a loss to Reagan in the conference tournament.

“It was better than nothing, but it wasn’t the same feeling,” Wall said. “Yeah, you were playing West baseball, but it didn’t feel like you were playing West baseball. It kind of felt like you were playing travel ball because a lot of fans couldn’t come because of COVID. You could only have a certain amount of people there.”

The Titans were motivated to do well this season knowing they had a strong returning nucleus.

“It was one of those things where if you look at the guys we had, we were studs,” Wall said. “We had 10 seniors and seven or eight of them are going somewhere to play college baseball…We knew we had a chance to win it all.”

West Forsyth won its first 11 games this season before its first loss. The following week, West Forsyth defeated Davie County 11-3 in Mocksville, but just two nights later, Davie won 24-10 in Clemmons.

“I’m still not sure what happened that night,” Bullard said. “But we sort of had a locker room heart-to-heart, the coaching staff and players did. They’re 16- and 18-year-old kids. And I think after that, I think it really clicked. I think they realized, ‘We can’t just roll the balls out here.’

“Obviously, that was a tough loss, and honestly probably cost us a share of the (regular season) conference championship. And it’s going to go one of two ways — either it’s going to defeat you or you’re going to realize, we’ve got to work hard. Looking back after that game I felt like our practices got better, they started really listening, they started pulling for each other, and I think they had a goal. Obviously, our ultimate goal is to win a state championship. I told them that’s hard to do. There’s only one team that does that.”

After that, West Forsyth lost to Archbishop Moeller (Ohio) 7-1 in a spring break tournament on April 12, and lost in a no-hitter to East Forsyth 1-0 and Forbush 2-0 on April 26-27, respectively. However, West Forsyth traveled to Kernersville on April 28, the final game of the regular season, and trounced East Forsyth 12-0.

“What got us going was when we got no-hit by Braxton (Stewart of East Forsyth),” Wall said. “The first East game got us all stirred up because they all celebrated like they won the state championship after they beat us. And it really fired us up. And we had one goal and that was to beat them whenever we played them either Thursday or Friday.”

Despite the win against East Forsyth in the rematch, West Forsyth was the No. 3-seed in the conference tournament behind top-seeded East Forsyth and second-seeded Reagan. West Forsyth, which played host to the semifinals and championship of the conference tournament, also played at home in the first round against Mount Tabor. West Forsyth defeated Mount Tabor 10-4, then defeated Reagan 4-3 the next night in the semifinals. Two nights later, West Forsyth played East Forsyth again, and West Forsyth won 8-4 to win the conference tournament.

The NCHSAA Class 4-A playoffs were announced the following Monday, and West Forsyth received the No. 13 seed and played host to No. 20 Concord Cox Mill in the first round of the playoffs. West Forsyth won 10-3.

“When we got the state-playoff seedings we would’ve wished we were a little higher, but we understood that having a couple losses coming in hurt us,” Wall said. “But our goal was to win seven (innings) to play another seven, and that was our goal. It worked out for us for a long time.”

That, it did. West Forsyth defeated No. 29 Davie County 10-0 in the second round, defeated No. 28 Ragsdale 10-0 in the third round, all in Clemmons. However, in the quarterfinals on May 20, West Forsyth had to travel to play No. 1 Charlotte Providence. Providence, which is now 32-0 and playing Southern Pines Pinecrest this weekend in the best-of-three state-championship series, defeated West Forsyth 4-3 after West Forsyth took a two-run lead in the first inning.

That loss was especially stinging for Wall because he was part of the play that gave Providence the lead. In the bottom of the sixth inning, there was a Providence runner on first. Withers was pitching and he threw over to first to Wall on a pickoff attempt. The ball ticked off Wall’s glove, and the runner scored all the way from first to give Providence a 4-3 lead.

“It’s a sickening feeling because you had our group of guys, who are family,” Wall said. “And when that happened you could just see, look around, and see everyone with their head down. It’s just like, ‘What could you have done?'”

For Wall, the rest of the seniors, and the rest of the team, it was difficult after the game, and even more difficult to get on the bus and make the trip back to Clemmons.

“It was hard. It was very sickening,” Wall said. “It was one of those things where you get sick on your stomach. To think you were one run away from going into the bottom of the seventh, or two runs away from taking the lead and having a chance to play in a regional championship, not many people say they did that. Not that many people say that made it to the elite eight, but it’s of those things where, after we went through the line, we kind of just sat in the outfield.”

Wall said the first 15-20 minutes of the bus ride was pretty despondent. However, Bullard stood and gave them a pep talk.

“Probably the first half-hour, it was really quiet, Bullard said. “They enjoyed the last hour, and were talking and reminiscing, and they did exactly what I wanted them to do.”

Graduation is quickly approaching, and it’s going to be a hard for the seniors.

“We’re all just trying to soak it all in while it lasts because, I was talking to some of the guys in the locker room (last Wednesday), I feel kind of like they did in the movie ‘Sandlot” where they kind of walk off and disappear, and they get like paddles on where they’re going, I was saying we were in a movie. It was one of those things where we had such a good season. We had probably one of the best seasons at West (history), and it’s just like that. Everyone’s going their separate ways.”

These seniors won’t be forgotten by Bullard.

“We cleaned out our lockers (last) week and it’s hard,” Bullard said. “I tell them, they basically become like one of your other kids. And they really do. Some people don’t realize that. I spend a lot more time with those 10 kids than I do with my own. And that makes it hard. That makes it real hard.”

After graduation, Wall will head to Belmont Abbey in the fall to start his career as a player there. He said he chose Belmont Abbey after looking at UNC Greensboro, UNC Asheville, Ferrum, Lenoir-Rhyne, and Wingate. He’s mostly going to be used as a pitcher.

“I’m going there to play baseball,” he said. “I’m also going there to get a degree. I’m going to get a degree in sports management and try to get a minor in business. But my goal for baseball, you know, they told me if I can break like 93 (mph), and that’s my goal. If I can hit 93, 94 I’ll be happy with my life.”

For the time-being, he has something else he’s working on. His father owns Abbott’s Frozen Custard in Clemmons, and Wall works there 3-4 days a week. He would like to own his own business after he graduates from college.

“It’s one of those things where I feel like I’m just going to be some old guy and one day never going to want to stop being a part of baseball,” Wall said. “I’ve been playing it my entire life, and if it doesn’t work out the way I want it to work out, I can look back and have the mind for business and be able to run Abbott’s.”