Wildcats enjoy sweeping success
Westchester Country Day School enjoyed its sweetest of moments.
With their 14-4 victory Saturday over Rocky Mount Academy on their home field, the Wildcats swept the NCISAA 2A baseball championship series and won their second straight state title.
And, in that moment, everything they had done to prepare for the season – all blistering workouts in the summer, all the freezing cold sessions during the winter – was confirmed.
“Every day, we were grinding,” senior Markel Johnson said. “Fall baseball was until the end of October. After that was over, we worked out all the way until the start of the season. Every day. It was snowing and all, and we’d still come down. And it paid off.
“It’s a big relief,” he said with a grin. “I’m glad that all the work paid off. All the hard work, all the sweat, all the cold fingers and numbness, muscles being sore – it all paid off for this moment right here, and we got that championship.”
Four years ago, Westchester was a much different program. During the four-year careers of seniors Johnson, Micah Hedgepeth, Luke Puckett and W.J. Jessup, however, it has boomed into a state baseball powerhouse.
It has won three Triad Athletic Conference regular-season titles, two of the three conference tournament titles, reached the semifinals four times, the championship series three times and won the title twice.
“It’s great,” Johnson said. “I can come back to this school at any time and know that our class is a part of every single championship banner that we now have on the wall. That’s great, because not many people have that.”
Coming in, the idea was to prepare the players in every way possible for the coming year. Whether it was improving strength and conditioning; working on hitting, pitching and fielding; or simply improving team camaraderie, they did the work.
Into the season, the Wildcats toughened themselves with a very difficult schedule, including games against local 3A powers Wesleyan Christian and High Point Christian. Such challenges were difficult and not all were wins, but they pushed them to succeed.
“First, and probably foremost, they’re really talented,” coach Joey Hammond said. “We know that we’re talented enough that if we just compete, then we should be able to beat anyone at any level in any division at any anything.
“On top of that, we work — and really hard. These guys have a passion about it. … In the winter, we’re in our weight room, and we’re grinding it out. We’re preparing ourselves for moments like today, and it shows up. It’s working hard and working smart.”
Through its first two state playoff games, Westchester (23-6), which was ranked No. 1 in the 2A the entire season, rolled past Fayetteville Christian and Davidson Day and into the best-of-three finals series against the second-seeded Eagles.
With a 7-1 win Friday and a 14-4 win Saturday, the Wildcats – led by all-state performers Johnson, Donnie Sellers and Tyler Marion – played outstandingly, shaking off a troublesome start early in Saturday’s game to simply overwhelm RMA.
“It was the same approach. We didn’t change anything about our swings,” Johnson said. “Going into yesterday, going into this series, we knew they’d be throwing away. We knew we just had to sit back, trust out hands and trust we’d get hits.
“We just knew that if we did what we’re capable of doing, then it’d work out well for us.”