Prep baseball: Lake Norman 8, West Rowan 1
By Mike London
MOUNT ULLA ó A day of bright sunshine eventually surrendered to lightning, rain and gloom, and West Rowan baseball coach David Wright’s mood matched the fickle weather.
West didn’t play well at all against visiting Lake Norman, and a lackluster performance wasn’t going to get it done against a team that’s proven it’s one of the best in 3A. Lake Norman (15-1, 12-0 NPC) has already won convincingly at East Rowan’s Staton Field. On Friday, the Wildcats finished a sweep of West with an 8-1 road victory.
“We didn’t play good Tuesday and not well at all Wednesday even though we scored 16 runs,” Wright said. “We were fortunate to win those two games by the luck of the talent. Then we have a real shoddy practice Thursday, and now this. I don’t get it.”
West (9-8, 6-5) had theoretically turned the corner when it whipped East 9-1 at Staton Field last week, but now it’s back to the drawing board. West needed a break to score the only run it managed against LN hurlers Scottie Williams and Ross Whitley.
Williams is regarded as Lake Norman’s third hurler, behind Catawba signees Nick Lomascolo and Whitley, but he was in charge from the outset.
“Scottie’s been in the shadows behind Ross and Lomo,” Lake Norman coach Robert Little said. “He’s our secret weapon.”
With Randy Shepherd unavailable, Wright started lefty Garrett White on the mound. He allowed only one hit in 31/3 innings, but five walks got him in hot water.
Back-to-back walks forced Wright to go to his bullpen in the fourth inning, and freshman Matt Miller was greeted by Donnie Burt’s RBI single for a 2-0 Lake Norman lead. After hitting a batter to fill the bases, Miller got the double-play grounder he needed off the bat of Lomascolo, but second baseman Hayden Untz couldn’t handle a tricky hop. Two runs scored, and the Falcons were in a 4-0 hole.
Brantley Horton scored West’s lone run in the fourth after he drilled a one-out double to right-center. When Untz grounded out, Horton rounded third too far and should have been the final out in a rundown. He escaped ó and scored ó when catcher Joe Faist fumbled the ball, then narrowly missed tagging Horton as he slid by.
That’s all West managed against Williams, a lean junior who sported braces and a nasty breaking ball and changeup.
“I was really excited about this start,” Williams said. “I thought all of us did a good job of not being cocky about being 11-0 and just played like we were still back at the beginning. We made some hits, made some plays, got the job done.”
Williams was especially tough on West center fielder Jon Crucitti, who has been his teammate on Mooresville American Legion teams. A diving catch was Crucitti’s only highlight. Williams struck him out three times, mostly with changeups.One of Lake Norman’s strengths is aggressive baserunning, and the Wildcats used that asset to blow the game open in a three-run fifth.
Hits by Whitley, Jordan Farrell and Faist produced a run to make it 5-1. Next, Lake Norman scored two runs on a wild pitch. As the ball skipped away from West catcher Hernan Bautista, Farrell dashed home from third. Bautista’s flip to the plate trying to get Farrell got past Miller. No one backed up, and Lake Norman courtesy runner Josh Hennessee, who was on second when the pitch was thrown, was alert and didn’t hesitate. He came around without a play.Trailing 8-1, West tried to make things interesting in the sixth. Bautista and Horton had solid hits to start the inning before Untz was hit by a pitch to load the bases. That ended Williams’ night.
Whitley relieved and struck out Carlos Bautista on a breaking ball in the dirt. Then he struck out Dylan Andrews and got Thomas Hester to pop up to end the threat.
Whitley then rolled through the seventh with the help of a slick 3-6-3 double play to end the game.
Lake Norman stayed in charge of the league race. West should still be headed for the playoffs and has time to get things straightened out.
“Bottom line, we’ve got to play better and with more desire or things aren’t going to be what they could be or might be for us,” Wright said. “On the other hand, Lake Norman played with lots of energy. They look like they’re getting better every day.”