Prep baseball: West Rowan 8, Carson 7
By Mike London
MOUNT ULLA ó Where would West Rowan be without unsung junior right-hander D.J. Webb?Probably on a slow boat headed for eighth place.
But the Falcons do have Webb, so they’re playoff-bound. They tied Carson for fourth in the NPC with a dramatic 8-7 comeback victory at West on Thursday.
Webb, who has five saves, nailed down the last six outs. He won for the third time, including the second time in three days. He pitched 62/3 innings at Statesville.
“I’ll be honest, and every guy on this team will tell you the same thing, if we handed out an MVP trophy today it would go to D.J.,” West coach David Wright said. “We’ve had a lot of kids do good things, but he’s done everything we’ve asked ó innings in relief, innings as a starter. I’m sure he’d like more starts, but he’s never once whined about his role. He’s pitched like he’s 10 feet tall.”
The Falcons (11-8, 8-5) got three hits from Hernan Bautista and four RBIs from Hayden Untz to beat submariner Will Misenheimer, who has been Carson’s version of Webb.
Misenheimer (2-4) has been used in long relief, as a closer and as a starter, and he’s always out there in the big games. He’s lost some tough ones, none tougher than Thursday’s.
“Both teams wanted it, both teams needed it ó neither was going to quit,” Carson coach Chris Cauble said. “We can’t hang our heads.”
Carson (12-7, 8-5) did a lot right early and led 5-1 after 41/2 innings.
“We’ve just gotta finish,” said Carson second baseman Julio Zubillaga, who doubled, scored twice and was a rock defensively. “Will threw it good, but West hit it good. I can’t take anything away from them.”
Carson turned three singles into a four-run fourth inning. The productive frame against lefty Zack Simpson was keyed by bunts from Scott Ashby and Weston Snow.
The Falcons didn’t get an out on either. Snow’s was a surprise squeeze with the bases loaded, and it created bedlam. Two runs scored when the ball was thrown away.
“We tried to do whatever it took to win this one,” Cauble said. “We executed on those bunts about as well as you can.”
Down 5-1 in the fifth, West benefited from two bottom-of-the-order walks and picked up a pair of runs on Tyler King’s sac fly and Untz’s RBI single.
West turned double plays in the fifth and sixth to dodge big innings. Webb started a 1-6-3 DP to escape a major mess in the sixth. That kept West within striking distance, down 6-3.
West got consecutive hits from Jon Crucitti, Brett Huffman and Bautista to load the bases in the sixth. Crucitti dashed home on a passed ball. After Thomas Hester walked, King singled to make it 6-5.
King’s hit filled the bases for Untz, a lefty hitter. Carson played Untz around to the opposite field, giving up the right-field line, an indication Cauble wanted him pitched away. But the first pitch to Untz was up and on the inner half, and he pulled it sharply to right to clear the bases. West led 8-6.
The drama escalated when Zubillaga opened Carson’s seventh with a scorching double, then scored when Gunnar Hogan’s single to left was bobbled. Hogan hustled to second carrying the tying run.
Cauble said he regretted not ordering Tyler Freeze to bunt Hogan to third, but strategically it made sense to let Freeze, who has been Carson’s best hitter all year, swing away. Webb got him on a routine fly to left.
Then Wright went against the book, ordering an intentional pass to Joe Basinger. That put the go-ahead run at first base, but Wright had faith in Webb to keep breaking balls down and away from Ashby and Patrick Bearden. Webb made the gamble pay off. He got both to sky balls in the air.
Untz, the second baseman, squeezed Bearden’s towering popup in short right to end it.
“After getting a big hit like that, I knew I couldn’t mess it up,” Untz said. “This was huge for us. We finally came from behind, and we beat a scrappy team that executed all night.”
As he’s done all year, Webb gave West a chance to rally.
“I was kinda tired and a little nervous, but I just threw the best I could,” Webb said. “I knew we would fight back.”