Brown's Hagler outduels Bautista
KANNAPOLIS — It was a game that defied baseball logic.
West Rowan pitcher Omar Bautista walked none — and lost. A.L. Brown hurler Trace Hagler walked seven — and won.
That doesn't make any sense, but based on the team's season records, nothing about the Wonders' 2-1 win at Veterans Field on Monday made much sense, although it should be noted A.L. Brown (4-14) is better than its record. The Wonders beat SPC leader Hickory Ridge last week.
“This game should really help us out,” said Hagler, who struck out 10 Falcons. “All year, we've lost the close games because of one bad inning. This time we played seven instead of six.”
Bautista (4-2) was efficient and dominant. He also fanned 10.
“Fastball was working, curve was working, change was working, slider was working,” he said. “It was all working today — but that's baseball.”
Brown's third inning started with two quiet outs, but then Kameron Sherrill singled and Hagler doubled. Then Zach Mullinax drove in two runs on what may have been's Bautista's only serious mistake.
“It was a curveball that was supposed to go down, but it hung and stayed up for him,” Bautista said.
A curveball was exactly what Mullinax was sitting on.
“My first at-bat, he got me to ground out to shortstop on a curve,” Mullinax said. “So I went up there looking for another one. I hit it toward the gap. I saw it go through, and we had two runs.”
Those were Brown's only two because center fielder Harrison Baucom robbed Hagler, who already had a single and a double, of a two-run triple in the fifth.
West (14-5) had its chances, but aggressiveness on the basepaths didn't pay off.
The first two Falcons walked in the second, but a pickoff wrecked the inning.
West nearly had first and third with none out in the fourth, but Michael Pinkston was out trying for third base on Justin Evans' single to right.
“Bottom line, we executed on a lot of things today,” A.L. Brown coach Empsy Thompson said. “Executed on pick plays. Executed on throws from the outfield. And Trace kept pitching his way out of trouble. I'm tickled to death.”
West's best chance of all was in the fifth when Cody McNeely walked, and Hagler threw high trying for the lead runner on Wood Poteat's sacrifice bunt. When Jeremy Simpson walked, West had the bases full, none out, and the top of the order up. It's the sort of scenario the Falcons can quickly turn into a six-run inning.
But Hagler struck out Baucom and Pinkston. A throwing error by Mullinax, the catcher, gave West its only run, but Hagler struck out cleanup man Hunter Teeter to end the inning.
“Bases loaded, no outs, and we couldn't do anything,” West coach Chad Parker said. “Omar threw well enough to win most games, but this can be a cruel game.”
After Juan Garcia singled, Hagler's ninth and 10th Ks ended the sixth. Then West went down 1-2-3 in the seventh.
“I loved what Trace did out there today,” Mullinax said. “I trusted him and he trusted me, and that's the first time he's really come like that for us when we really needed it.”
West lost its third straight and travels to Mooresville Wednesday.
“We need to hit the ball more,” Bautista said. “And we need to to play with passion.”