High school baseball: West rallies for 9th straight win

Published 5:48 am Thursday, May 4, 2023

Staff report

GRANITE QUARRY — West Rowan used one wild inning to win its ninth straight baseball game on Wednesday.

A six-run fourth propelled the surging Falcons to a 6-5 victory against Carson — and into the championship game of the South Piedmont Conference Tournament.

It was a struggle. Drew Burton relieved West starting pitcher Corbin Bailey in the fourth inning. Burton (4-1) got some huge outs with runners on base and earned the win.

Luke Graham pitched a calm seventh for his third save.

Fifth-seeded Carson (12-11) took a 2-0 lead in the second inning with Daniel Savage and Cameron Burleyson delivering run-scoring hits.

Carson lefty Mikey Beasley (3-6) dodged a bases-loaded jam in the bottom of the first, handled the Falcons in the second and third and took that 2-0 lead to the fourth.

Carson threatened to blow the game open in the top of the fourth, loading the bases with no outs. Bailey walked the first two hitters in the inning. Burton relieved him at that point and hit the next one, so the Cougars had the bases loaded with no outs.

Then Burton got a huge double-play grounder, with Graham, West’s second baseman, wisely trading a run for two outs.

Burleyson smacked his second run-scoring hit to put the Cougars ahead 4-0, but the Falcons were still in the game.

Then West got six runs in the bottom of the fourth to turn it all around.

Hits by Luke Ponczka, Zach McNeely and Elijah Palmer started a snowball rolling. A catcher’s interference call and an error made it 4-3. Graham tied the game with a run-scoring single, one of his three hits. Matthew Connolly’s RBI single put the Falcons ahead for the first time. Cole Blevins hit a sacrifice fly for 6-4.

After a quiet fifth, Carson strung together three singles in the sixth. Savage singled in a run to cut the Falcons’ lead to 6-5 and the tying run advanced to third with one out. But Burton got a strikeout and a ground ball to end the threat.

Carson reliever Corbin Hales was sharp in the late innings and kept it close, but Graham took the mound in the seventh and added a save to his night’s work. Carson went down 1-2-3, with two strikeouts.

Top-seeded West (18-5) advanced to Thursday’s 7 p.m. championship game against second-seeded East Rowan (19-5) at Staton Field. West will be in the odd position of being the home team on its rival’s field.

Carson (12-11) lost its fourth one-run game of the season but is certain to be in the 3A state playoffs.