Prep Baseball: West Rowan 4, Carson 3
By Mike London
West Rowan stayed in the playoff chase when sophomore lefty Zack Simpson went the distance and beat Carson 4-3 on Tuesday.
“Just come out and win,” West third baseman Brantley Horton said. “That’s what we’ve gotta do in these last few games.”
West (11-9, 6-8) and the Cougars (8-11, 6-8) split and both are involved in a four-way tie for fifth place in the NPC with Lake Norman and North Iredell.
The league gets six playoff berths, but West’s schedule is rough. Its last four games include meetings with East Rowan, Mooresville and South Rowan.
But Simpson (5-2) provided hope. If he doesn’t quiet the Cougars, the fat lady starts warming up her vocal chords.
“If we lose this one, it puts a real damper on us,” West coach David Wright said. “But we found a way to finish it and found a way to finish it on the road.”
Carson threatened to move into the upper tier two weeks ago, but three straight losses have left the Cougars fighting to preserve their own playoff hopes.
“We just keep coming out dead and lifeless,” senior Jeremy Mullis said. “We get in a hole and then wait until the end to try to make it all up.”
Consecutive singles by Tyler King, Philip Miclat and Brett Huffman against lefty Cam Park got West started with a bang. Mullis relieved Park, yielded the RBI single to Carlos Bautista that made it 2-0, and then turned a line drive up the middle into a double play, firing to second while he was seated on the grass.
West got a run in the second on King’s sac fly. It was 4-0 after King’s fourth-inning double down the left-field line fell just out of the reach of diving Scott Ashby.
Four runs looked like 40, the way Simpson was pitching. He scattered five walks and fanned eight.
“Simpson did a great job mixing his pitches, and we swung at a lot of bad ones,” Carson coach Chris Cauble. “We had our chances, had the guys up there we would have designed to have up there, but we couldn’t get the clutch hit.”
Simpson had a no-hitter until the fourth. Carson finally applied pressure when Joseph Basinger and Zack Wright opened the fifth with singles. Carson got a run when a pitch got past catcher Hernan Bautista, but with runners at second and third, Simpson struck out cleanup hitter Randy Shepherd and Ashby, Carson’s two top RBI men.
“They’re good hitters,” Simpson said. “I just had to bear down and we really had to bear down on defense.”
Carson reliever Will Misenheimer handcuffed West for three innings and gave the Cougars a chance for a seventh-inning charge. A walk and hits to right by Mullis and Gunnar Hogan made it 4-2.
Coach Wright still liked the matchup of Simpson against Shepherd and Ashby and stayed with his young left-hander even after a mound visit.
“If they’re at the top or bottom, I go to D.J. Webb there,” Wright said. “But they were in their heart, so it was Simpson’s game to win or lose.”
Horton made the biggest play on Shepherd’s bouncer to third base. He made a charging scoop, and first baseman Huffman made a great dig on the other end for the second out, as a run scored.
“I just kinda reacted to it and was able to make a play,” Horton said. “Then Brett scooped it and saved me.”
Simpson got the last out himself, striking out Ashby on a high fastball.
Contact Mike London at 704-797-4259 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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