Prep Baseball: West Rowan wins
By Mike London
Salisbury PostMOUNT ULLA ó West Rowan bolstered its playoff hopes with a tougher-than-it-sounds 9-2 NPC victory over Lake Norman on Wednesday, and senior right-hander Jake Koontz celebrated his final trip to the West mound with a complete game.
Koontz sailed through his junior season ó 5-2 record, a no-hitter, All-NPC. His senior season has been bumpier. He threw a complete game at Statesville and lost 3-2. That’s Statesville’s only NPC victory, a pretty good indicator of how Koontz’s luck has gone.
But he hasn’t packed it in. He’s 3-5 after last night’s four-hitter.
“Jake’s been up and down, and I think a lot of that has to do with he could concentrate on just pitching last year and he’s had a spot in the outfield this year,” West coach David Wright said. “It was nice to see him get back in the zone.”
Koontz finally caught a break when Lake Norman (9-13, 6-10) didn’t catch a flyball that got lost in the lights. That play turned the game. West trailed 2-1 at the time and Koontz was on the ropes for another loss.
“Maybe I was due for a break,” Koontz said. “But I had my stuff working pretty good. I was throwing two-seam fastballs and four-seamers, working in and out and getting a lot of groundballs. My catcher (Hernan Bautista) helped me out a lot. I only shook him off once and he did a great job framing pitches.”
West’s defense backed Koontz with three double plays. Shortstop Philip Miclat turned two, and third baseman Brantley Horton skied for a liner to start another one.
Wright expected his team to face Lake Norman ace, Nick Lomascolo, a southpaw who throws in the mid-80s. Instead, Lake Norman started Tyler Lewis. Lewis had West hitters off-balance and lofting one harmless popup after another. West made nine outs in the air the first four innings.
“Lewis did a great job,” Wright said. “We were geared for Lomascolo and did a poor job of making adjustments.”
West (12-10, 7-9) scored first on Horton’s bloop double and red-hot Dylan Andrews’ line-drive single, but the Wildcats took advantage of three walks and a hit batsman to scratch out a 2-1 lead in the third.
It stayed that way until the pivotal fifth. Lewis retired Matt Sheets, one of just three West seniors, on another flyball. Then leadoff man Tyler King stroked a fly ball deep, but playable, to right-center. Both outfielders were in good position.
“I was sort of jogging to first base because I thought sure they had it,” King said. “Then I heard people screaming. I looked up, and the ball is rolling behind them.”
There’s no space in the scorebook reserved for “lost in lights,” so it officially was a triple for King. He scored the tying run on Miclat’s sac fly. Then Brett Huffman walked, stole second and scored when Carlos Bautista’s grounder to third was misplayed. Horton singled to left to score Bautista for a 4-2 lead.
Lomascolo relieved and got the third out in the fifth, but Andrews and D.J. Webb greeted him with solid rips to start West’s sixth. Lomascolo exited, and the Falcons blew the game open with five runs against the bullpen. Huffman’s double down the left-field line was the key blow.
“The flyball that got lost, we got lucky there, and that was the biggest part of the game,” Wright said. “It just quickly snowballed on them after that, but at the same time we played solid. We’ve got a lot of young kids that have grown up in the second half. We’re playing good baseball now.”
West was 1-5 in the NPC at its low point. It probably needs a win on the road at either Mooresville or South Rowan to secure a playoff berth, but a sweep of Lake Norman boosts the Falcons’ chances. West also has a chance at its ninth straight winning season. That looked impossible in March.
Contact Mike London at 704-797-4259 or firstname.lastname@example.org.