Prep Baseball: West Rowan ousts SPC champ

Published 12:00 am Friday, May 9, 2008

By Mike London
Salisbury Post
WAXHAW ó West Rowan sophomore Zack Simpson has improved by baby steps all spring, and he lengthened his stride in Friday’s afternoon game on the South Carolina border at Marvin Ridge.
The poised lefty’s complete-game pitching effort stifled the Mavericks, and Simpson’s teammates produced just enough offense for a 2-1 victory in the first round of the 3A playoffs.
West (15-10) will enjoy a shorter trip Tuesday when it visits neighbor and NPC rival Mooresville (19-5) in the second round.
West coach David Wright gambled frequently trying to generate offense against Marvin Ridge hurler Scott Shipman. None of his calculated risks paid off, but the Falcons survived.
“I rolled the dice a bunch and it was all wrong except the decision to put Zack Simpson on the hill,” Wright said. “Zack’s the story. When he’s in the zone he’s tough, and today when he got out of the zone, he was able to find it again. That’s something he hasn’t been doing. This was a huge stepping stone for his future.”
Simpson’s present isn’t bad. He logged two must-wins as West fought its way into fifth place in the NPC and a state playoff berth last week. He kept it going against Marvin Ridge (19-5), the SPC’s top-seeded team.
“For a 10th-grader, Simpson showed a lot of composure,” Marvin Ridge coach Mark Mennitt said. “He threw three pitches for strikes, and when a high school pitcher does that, it doesn’t matter if he throws 70, 80 or 90, he’ll be successful.”
Marvin Ridge has speed and tried things to rattle Simpson, including an attempted steal of home on catcher Hernan Bautista’s throw back to the mound in the third.
“Zack made a great quick relay back to me to get him,” Bautista said. “That’s a great team we were playing, and they try to get in your head.”
Carlos Bautista led off the West second with a solid single and scored when Brantley Horton doubled to right-center.
Catcher Byron Haag tied it for Marvin Ridge with an RBI single in the third.
The Mavericks were inches from a big inning, but Shane Basen was out in a bang-bang call on his attempted steal of home, and Horton, the third baseman, wisely watched a swinging bunt that he had no play on, trickle foul by inches
West took advantage of a fifth-inning throwing error to score the decisive run. Dylan Andrews started the inning with a single and moved to second on an errant pickoff throw by Haag.
Jake Koontz tried to sacrifice Andrews to third, but his bunt was hard and right back to the mound. Andrews was trapped between second and third, but Shipman fired the ball into left field to allow Andrews to score.
West tried to add on with aggressiveness but Falcons were cut down stealing at third and trying to score from second on a one-out single at the plate.It stayed 2-1, and it was up to Simpson and Bautista, one of the NPC’s top catchers, to hold a precarious lead for nine more outs. It was warm for the afternoon game, but Simpson said he likes it hot.
“Zack’s velocity was off a little, but his location was outstanding,” Bautista said. “He told me his elbow was hurting little , so we didn’t use as many curveballs as usual. We set them up with changeups and fastballs and when he needed his curveball, it was always there.”Simpson picked off a runner to end the fifth. In the sixth, with a Maverick at third with two outs and Simpson behind in the count 2-0, he made three straight great pitches for his sixth strikeout.
The Mavericks put a man on with a bunt in the seventh, but second baseman Tyler King made a sliding stop up the middle and flipped to shortstop Philip Miclat for a game-ending force play.
“I knew Tyler had it,” Simpson said. “He’s made plays like that all year.”
Contact Mike London at 704-797-4259 or