Prep baseball: Foard 6, W. Rowan 2
By David Shaw
NEWTON ó A season that began with high expectations ended in despair Friday night.
West Rowan’s baseball team suffered a first-round knockout at Fred T. Foard, where it dropped a 6-2 decision in the opening round of the 3A playoffs.
“I wish we could do it all over again,” catcher Hernan Bautista said after West (15-10) managed only one hit against Foard right-hander Robert McKinney. “I wish we had another shot at them.”
That’s because this one was well off the mark. The Falcons fell behind in the early innings, never adjusted to McKinney’s incinerating heat and offered little resistance in a season-ending loss.
“We hoped to be playing on,” said WR coach David Wright. “But we ran into a good arm. And in the playoffs, it only takes one good arm to end your season.”
Foard (16-12), the top 3A seed out of the Catawba Valley Conference, advanced to the second round ó thanks largely to McKinney. The slender junior used a hissing, 90-mph fastball along with a sweeping curve and a mesmerizing changeup to baffle the Falcons. Wright called him “effectively wild,” and added: “Give him the credit. That kid on the bump was pretty good.”
McKinney was good enough to record 10 strikeouts ó upping his season total to 146 ó and improve to 9-2. But he also walked seven batters, threw four wild pitches and hit a man.
“Sometimes his stuff is so good I don’t think he knows where it’s going,” cracked coach Channon Vogel. “That’s what makes him effective.”
West’s only hit was Bautista’s fourth-inning double, a sharp grounder down the left-field line. It produced the Falcons’ first run when left-fielder Mitchell Henderson retrieved the ball but inadvertently fired it into a dead ball area.
All that did was trim West’s deficit to 4-1, a Foard lead built on Jacob Bradshaw’s two-run homer in the first inning and Tyler Wharton’s two-run double in the second. Losing pitcher Zack Simpson ó who had won his last four decisions ó was victimized by the field’s short fences and a plate umpire with a strike zone the size of an iPod.
“I think (Simpson) was on tonight, but he wasn’t getting the calls we usually get,” Bautista said. “It was funny. One call we’d get and the next inning we wouldn’t get it.”
Bradshaw’s home run was hammered to straight-away center field and gave the hosts a 2-0 lead.
“I was surprised it got out,” West shortstop Philip Miclat said. “Zack threw a slider and the kid got out on his front foot. The ball really carries here.”
Wright certainly noticed. “Honestly, in any other ballpark ó including Newman Park ó that’s an out,” he said. “It’s an easy F-8. I don’t know, what is it 320 (feet) to center here? And the second homer, that one doesn’t even make it to our warning track.”
Foard’s second home run came in the bottom of the fourth inning against West reliever D.J. Webb. With Wharton aboard courtesy of one of three Falcon errors, McKinney lofted a 1-1 pitch over the fence in right-center for a 6-1 Foard advantage.
And while the Falcons scratched out a run in the top of the seventh ó Dylan Andrews scored on Miclat’s groundout ó McKinney. wasn’t rattled.”Against him, you have to simplify your swing and stay short,” said Miclat. “There’s a perception the harder someone throws, the harder you swing. In reality, all you have to do is make contact.”
There simply wasn’t enough of that from West’s lineup.
“He’s a good pitcher,” said Bautista, a .402 hitter. “But I truly believe he’s not better than us. The best team didn’t win tonight.”
That nod went to the team that played best.