Prep baseball: Piedmont 1, West Rowan 0

Published 12:00 am Thursday, March 5, 2009

By Mike London
UNIONVILLE ó West Rowan baseball won’t go undefeated.
Ranked third in the Impact preseason poll, the Falcons were shut out 1-0 by Piedmont right-hander Will Gamble in their opener Thursday.
West has an all-star roster with just about everyone back from a good team, plus three talented transfers, but it’s tough to win if you bat .000 with runners in scoring position.
West had scoring chances in each of the first three innings and again in the seventh but never cashed in.
“No excuses,” West coach David Wright said. “But when you’ve got the quality of talent we’ve got and a ranking, it puts pressure on you. We were tense at the plate, looking for something to happen instead of making it happen. And we were jumpy on the mound at the start.”
Appalachian State-bound right-hander Randy Shepherd, Carson’s ace last season, debuted in blue. He allowed a run in the first. It beat him.
Brad Bellwood greeted Shepherd with a bad-hop single through the right side, but right fielder Carlos Bautista caught a routine flyball with Bellwood running and doubled him off first base.
Shepherd was a pitch away from getting out of the inning when Charlotte signee Jeff Lyerly whacked a single on a full count.
After Michael Herman banged a grounder past shortstop Philip Miclat, Lyerly scored on Travis Ball’s line single to right field.
“So ready to go, but I was just too tight and tense,” Shepherd said. “They got some hits on changeups in the first inning. After that, I calmed down and stuck with curves and fastballs.”
Shepherd worked out of a jam in the fourth and pitched a scoreless fifth with the help of an acrobatic catch in center field by Jon Crucitti.
“Randy only threw 61 pitches, but it took him 20 to get through the first,” Wright said. “After that, we pitched great and played well defensively. There were positives. We just couldn’t score.”Tyler King and Crucitti reached in the first inning, but Miclat and Brett Huffman couldn’t drive them in.
A two-out error and a hit down the left-field line by Thomas Hester put Falcons at second and third in the second inning, but center fielder Griffin Pack made a running catch of King’s liner to end the threat.
Dylan Andrews flied out deep to center to end the West fourth.
Crucitti launched a towering drive to left-center leading off the sixth that threatened to tie the game.
“He’d struck me out with three curveballs my previous at-bat, so I was determined to get the bat off my shoulder,” Crucitti said. “He left me a fastball up, but I got under it. If I could’ve traded altitude for distance, we were going extras.”
When Hernan Bautista singled sharply past third base to open the seventh, it was only the third hit for the Falcons. Carlos Bautista’s bunt moved courtesy runner Dustin Davis to second base, but he stayed there.
Gamble didn’t appear to have amazing stuff, but he had guts. He struck out Andrews, then fought back from a 3-0 hole to retire Hester on a routine fly to center to end it.
“We’re not supposed to be any good, but our guys saw where West was ranked and talked about it,” Piedmont coach Milt Flow said. “We were excited about playing ’em. Our pitcher threw one heck of a game, and our center fielder tracked balls down.”
West played without Brantley Horton, who was busy at “Star Teacher Awards.” … D.J. Webb pitched a scoreless sixth for West.