Prep Baseball: South Rowan 6, West Rowan 2: West plays without Wright
By Mike London
LANDIS — David Wright resigned as West Rowan’s head coach on Monday.
Wright has been dealing with stress that includes the death of his father in January. Frank Wright’s passing was unexpected, and he and his son were close.
“David made a hard decision, a personal decision,” said Chad Parker, who has been tabbed to replace Wright at the helm of the Falcons.
Parker is experienced. He was a head coach in Virginia eight seasons and spent four seasons as the head coach of the Statesville Greyhounds.
“I came over here to help out David as an assistant,” Parker said. “But it’s not my first rodeo.”
Wright’s four full seasons at West were 15-11, 15-11, 15-10 and 14-12 and were characterized by agonizingly slow starts and fast, furious finishes. One of East Rowan’s two losses in 2010 came late in the season to a surging West squad.
West has made it a habit of being better at the end than at the beginning, and Parker hopes that trend will continue. West is 0-4 overall and 0-1 in the NPC after losing 6-2 at South Rowan on Tuesday.
West didn’t play a bad game, but it dug a 6-0 hole and couldn’t get out.
“But the energy and the effort were up,” Parker said. “Two or three more pitches go our way or we get one more hit, and we’re right there. We’ve got great kids. We’ll be fine.”
Both teams used a right-handed pitcher named Matt Miller to add to the unusual night.
South (2-1, 1-0) got strong pitching from its version of Miller and Preston Penninger. The right-handers combined for 11 strikeouts and limited the Falcons to five hits.
“West battled us hard, made us play right down to the last pitch,” South coach Thad Chrismon said. “We won because our pitchers threw a lot of great pitches and we played a very clean defensive game behind them.”
West’s young southpaw starting pitcher Justin Evans worked out of a major mess in the first — South had two on with none out — and it was still scoreless heading to the bottom of the third. That’s when South put four on the board to take charge.
Singles by Dylan Goodman and Tyler Kowalczyk and a walk to Eric Tyler filled the bases with one out. Jacob Dietz took ball four — a little high — to force home the game’s first run, and that brought Penninger, a four-year varsity veteran who has a penchant for clutch hits, to the plate.
“He had two strikes on me, so I just tried to keep my hands in and not swing too hard,” Penninger explained.
Penninger whipped a solid double into the left-field corner to score two. Dietz stopped at third on the hit and scored from there on a wild pitch.
“We talk about making ’em pay when we’ve got that chance for a big inning,” Chrismon said. “Huge hit by Preston.”
South stretched its lead to 6-0 in the fourth on a run-scoring single by Tyler and a run-scoring wild pitch, but West’s Matt Miller shut the Raiders out the rest of the way and gave his team a chance to rally.
West had its chance to make a charge in the fifth when it produced three hits and two walks and South contributed two wild pitches, but the Falcons could only score two runs. Ethan Wansley had an RBI single, and Penninger wild-pitched the other run home after he relieved Miller.
But Penninger also got the biggest out of the game, retiring West veteran Patrick Hampton on a strikeout to escape the fifth with runners at second and third.
“I knew I had a base open and didn’t have to give him a fastball,” Penninger said. “I got the big strikeout on a backdoor breaking ball.”
Penninger shut out West in the sixth and seventh. He earned the save. Miller, who fanned five of the first eight Falcons he faced, picked up his first win of the year.
“I was just throwing a lot of fastballs on the outside corner or a few inches off it,” Miller said. “My catcher (Tyler) did a great job of keeping that target out there.”
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