Prep Baseball: West Rowan 3, NW Cabarrus 2
By David Shaw
MOUNT ULLA ó Anyone waiting for a letdown from West Rowan’s baseball team will have to wait a little longer.
Four days after an emotional NPC victory at East Rowan, the Falcons moved over the .500-mark for the first time with a 3-2 win against visiting Northwest Cabarrus on Tuesday.
“I was a little bit worried that we might have some lull,” coach David Wright said after West (8-7, 5-4) gained its eighth victory in the past nine games. “But we played hard and got through it.”
Left-hander Zack Simpson led the way. The tall senior braided a fat-free fastball with a sweeping curve and a devastating changeup, limiting Northwest (8-8, 4-6) to just three singles in five-plus innings.
“Once he gets in a groove like that,” West Rowan catcher Hernan Bautista said, “it’s nearly impossible to get him out of it.”
Simpson evened his record and earned his third straight win with a tidy performance. He walked two batters, hit another and threw a wild pitch.
Discounting the third inning ó when Northwest scored twice ó he gave the Falcons a worry-free effort and pitched with visible confidence.
“I thought he did a great job,” said losing coach Joe Hubbard. “He got ahead of hitters, stayed ahead and pitched his game. Sometimes you’ve just got to give the credit to the other pitcher.”
Wright said the late movement on Simpson’s tailing fastball was a key.
“Most left-handers, when they’re around the zone, they get good movement,” he said. “Some guys throw invisible balls, and on certain days what you see isn’t what you’re swinging at. That’s what Zack had going for him tonight.”
He was backed by a solid defense, notably outfielders Thomas Hester, Jon Crucitti and Brantley Horton, who battled tricky winds to combine for seven putouts over the final four innings.
“When we make plays like those guys did, it’s way easier to pitch,” Simpson said. “It just made me more confident. I could throw anything I wanted and they’d go get ’em.”
West, which lost its first six games this spring, grabbed a 2-0 lead against Northwest lefty Rob Bain in the bottom of the second inning. Brett Huffman singled and scored the first run on Randy Shepherd’s one-out double to the left-center gap. Hester doubled the lead when he punched a base hit into left field.
After the Trojans tied the score with a pair of third-inning runs, WR quickly regained the lead. Crucitti reached on a two-base error leading off the last of the third and stole third base with one away. Horton then lofted a high fly ball that sent right-fielder Matt Greene to the fence, only to watch the ball drop in front of him for a wind-aided double.
“I was trying to hit the ball in the air and actually thought I had killed it,” Horton said after collecting two of West’s seven hits. “But the wind was gusting out there and it fell in.”
Simpson made the one-run lead stand up. He retired the Trojans in order in the top of the fifth and had set down seven of eight men before issuing a leadoff walk to NWC’s Taylor West in the sixth. D.J. Webb relieved and tied it all up in a pretty package.
Afterward, Wright insisted the fifth-place Falcons aren’t worried about the games-behind column. “We’re just going pitch-by-pitch, inning-by-inning and trying to play good baseball,” he said. “If we do that, the standings will take care of themselves.”
NOTES: West kicks off the second half of its conference season today at West Iredell, then hosts league-leading Lake Norman on Friday.
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