Prep Baseball: West Rowan
By Mike London
MOORESVILLE ó Mooresville’s Jon Crucitti watched the winning run score on his clutch double to right-center and showed his quarterback’s arm by flinging his batting helmet 30 feet into the sky as he reached second base.
Next, the sophomore collapsed in the infield dirt, flapped his appendages like a wounded eagle and waited for jubilant teammates to bury him in screaming piles of joy.
Neighbors and NPC rivals Mooresville and West Rowan played a second-round 3A baseball game that overflowed with emotion on Tuesday. The Blue Devils (20-5) survived 11-10 in eight innings and travel to Kernersville to play Glenn on Friday. West (15-11) ended its season with a draining display that went well beyond all the “valiant effort” cliches.
“You talk about swings in a baseball game,” an exhausted Crucitti said. “We’re up 5-0. Then they’re up 10-7. Then it’s 10-10. Absolutely the most fun game I’ve ever played in.”
That about sums it up.
While Mooresville coach Jeff Burchett shook more hands than a presidential candidate, hoarse West Rowan coach David Wright consoled his team in the right-field grass.
“There’s not a lot to talk about,” Wright said. “We played hard and well. I thought we had it there in the seventh, but we couldn’t quite seal the deal. Great baseball game.”
The Blue Devils came out with adrenaline pumping, eager to avenge a loss to West last week. They got five runs in the first, although three came on Matt Markofski’s drive down the left-field line that was ruled fair to the astonishment of many. West fans spent the next few innings sarcastically cheering the umpiring crew on every obvious fair-or-foul call.
“Crazy game,” West shortstop Philip Miclat said. “It was one of those games that really just came down to the luck of the draw all night long.”
Tyler King straightened out a Chris Beaver fastball for a two-out, two-run single in the third to give the Falcons hope, but Mooresville got those two runs back in the bottom half, as they knocked out D.J. Webb and forced Wright to call on senior Jake Koontz.
Koontz worked the outside corner and mowed down Mooresville hitters, and West bats came alive for eight unanswered runs that forced Burchett to dig deep into his pitching staff.
West’s five-run fourth that tied the game 7-7 was keyed by Koontz hustling for an infield hit on a routine bouncer wide of first base with two outs. That cracked the door, and the Falcons got breaks. Bloop singles by Matt Sheets, Miclat and Brett Huffman didn’t look like much, but all three scored runs.
It was still 7-7 in the top of the sixth, and Burchett had his horse, lefty Aubrey Meadows, on the mound. With two outs and two on, Carlos Bautista sent a soaring drive for a three-run homer and West fans were ready to pour from packed bleachers and dance in the streets.
“It all started off bad,” Bautista said. “But it was getting better and better. I got a fastball on the first pitch, and I was looking for it. I made solid contact.”
West stranded a runner at third in the top of the seventh. That turned out to be crucial when Mooresville finally got to Koontz in the bottom of the inning. Two singles and three walks produced three runs. With West one out away from a dramatic victory, Brett Compton singled for a 10-10 tie.
In the top of the eighth, Bautista’s two-out smash to deep center that would have scored Brett Huffman from first, bounced over the wall for a ground-rule double and Huffman had to go back to third. That was the last big break in a game filled with them.
Mooresville had two outs in the eighth when Crucitti drilled a pitch to right-center to score Billy Nantz from first with the game-winner.
“Koontz was keeping everything away,” Crucitti said. “But then he got behind me and had to throw a strike.”
Burchett said it was a classic.
“Not once but twice, West is down by five runs, but what a scrappy effort they gave,” Burchett said. “The advantage we had was being at home because whoever had the last at-bat was going to win it. This one is memorable for our guys. This is not one to ever be forgotten.”
Contact Mike London at 704-797-4259 or firstname.lastname@example.org.