Westchester baseball wins state crown

May. 18, 2013 @ 08:08 PM

Westchester Country Day School proved why it’s been ranked No. 1 all season.

Behind very strong performances offensively and defensively, the Wildcats rocked Rocky Mount Academy 14-4 on Saturday afternoon to complete the two-game sweep of the NCISAA 2A baseball championship series and win their second-straight title.

“This is something that definitely doesn’t get old,” Westchester coach Joey Hammond said, dripping with ice water dumped over him moments earlier. “It just feels awesome, and I’m so proud of these guys. This is really cool.”

The Wildcats (23-6), the tournament’s top seed, hit the ball exceptionally well all game. They had 15 hits — including three home runs — and scored at least one run in every inning. Even after they fell behind in the first inning, they continued to hit well.

Micah Hedgepeth hit a key two-run bomb to straightaway center field in the third to give Westchester a 5-4 lead. Myles Sowell then hit a two-run blast to left in the fifth, and Luke Puckett followed with a three-run shot to right in the seventh.

“See a fastball, hit it,” said Sowell, a junior who celebrated his 18th birthday by going 3 for 4, of the team’s approach at the plate. “That’s it. We saw a lot of curveballs. So, when you get your pitch, you’ve got to kill it — square it up.”

Tyler Marion struggled a bit pitching to start, allowing four runs on three hits and three walks. But he settled in over the next five innings, scattering three hits and one walk, and finished with seven strikeouts — including all three outs in the sixth. 

Donnie Sellers came on to finish off the win, getting a line-driveto right-center for the final out. Center fielder Markel Johnson caught it on the run, setting off a jubilant team celebration on the infield grass as a light rain fell from the overcast sky.

“This year, it’s that much more special because we’re here at home,” said Johnson, a senior who has signed with Appalachian State. “This is where it started, and this is where it ended. It’s been a great pleasure to be a part of this program.”

Hedgepeth finished with two hits and three RBIs for Westchester while Johnson and Marion each finished with two hits, including a double, and an RBI. Nate Blakeney also had two hits and an RBI.

Adam Bayless took the loss in 3 1/3 innings for the Eagles (20-4), the tournament’s No. 2 seed. Linwood Jones had two hits while, in the first inning, Chandler Clontz drove in two and Trey Medlin later added another to lead 4-2.

But the Wildcats, who also got an RBI from Adam Kirkman, scored one in the second, two in the third, single runs in the fourth and fifth, then three in the sixth and four in the seventh to take full control of the game.

“This is definitely the most mentally tough group I’ve ever been associated with,” Hammond said. “Part of that is that they can have damage control and don’t panic, and it certainly helps to have a guy like Marion on the mound. … 

“It’s really no difference in our approach all year long. Give their guys credit — they grind, they battle, they don’t quit. Fortunately for us, we don’t either, and our ability and talent came through.”