West Davidson eliminates Cavs

Published 12:00 am Friday, May 2, 2008

By Mike London
Salisbury Post
TYRO ó West Davidson left-hander Alex Grubb mowed down North Rowan hitters at the plate and retired them just as easily if they managed to get on base.
Grubb threw a three-hitter, picked off four surprised baserunners and cruised to a 7-0 victory in the first round of the CCC tournament. He made sure the Cavaliers, who created a buzz with a late-season charge, exited the tournament with barely a whisper.
“I thought we’d hit it a little better today,” North coach Rob Linder said. “Grubb’s got a good move, but four guys getting picked off? That shouldn’t happen.”
Baserunning struggles prevented fifth-seeded North from getting anywhere against Grubb when it still had a shot at an upset.
North starter Billy Veal matched Grubb pitch for pitch for three scoreless innings, but the fourth-seeded Green Dragons (16-7) bunched five singles and a sac fly for four runs in the fourth to break it open.
“I wasn’t as sharp as usual, felt just a little tired,” said Veal, who leads Rowan County hurlers with 74 strikeouts.
The Lander signee was weary for a reason. He took the ball in each of North’s last seven games, trying to will his team to a few more victories as his career wound down. He started three times, relieved in the other four. He tossed two complete games in his iron-man stretch and piled up 231/3 innings.
“Early in the game, Billy’s stuff was great, mid-to-high 80s, as good as we’ve seen all year,” West Davidson coach Jerry Walser said. “But we did a good job of working counts, fouling off pitches, and we got his pitch-count up there. By the fourth, we had him down in the high 70s. But it’s like I told Billy and (North senior) Nick Smith after the game. I’ve always respected them very much as ballplayers, and the way they obviously led that team this year, I respect them even more now as people. They were in a tough situation.”Grubb walked six to help North put two men on base in three different innings, but he kept picking people off. Kyle Munday and Travis Honeycutt had leadoff singles in the fourth and sixth, respectively, but were promptly caught leaning the wrong way.
“Alex got four of ’em today, and that gives him a total of 16 pickoffs this season,” Walser said.
“He’s not balking. It’s just a move he works hard on all the time.”
Grubb, a slugger who is West’s No. 3 pitcher, doesn’t throw a ton of innings, so his pickoff total is amazing.
Veal accepted one of his three walks in the first, but Grubb caught him leaning.
“It’s not the best move I’ve ever seen, but it’s definitely not the worst,” Veal said. “It’s pretty deceiving.”
After West Davidson’s four-run fourth, Veal moved to shortstop, switching places with Smith.
Smith was greeted by Jordan Hudson’s double and back-to-back blasts into the pine trees by Zach Burkhart and Grubb. That made it 7-0. Smith pitched well after that and got the final six outs despite defensive mishaps.West Davidson advanced to a 4:30 p.m. semifinal today against No. 1 seed Salisbury at Feezor Field. Assuming it doesn’t receive a wild-card berth in the state playoffs, North closes the books at 4-17.
“It was a lot of fun, and the kids never gave up,” Linder said. “We started 0-13, but we won four of the last eight. That’s a lot better than doing it the opposite way.”
Linder has to replace three seniors ó Veal, Smith and catcher Shane Ogg.
Contact Mike London at 704-797-4259 or mlondon@salisburypost.com.