Wildcats claw Burlington Christian
The Westchester Country Day baseball team wanted to have fun and celebrate its seniors. But it also knew there was work to be done.
Behind stellar hitting and strong pitching, the Wildcats, ranked No. 1 in the NCISAA 2A, achieved both Friday in beating Burlington Christian 22-1 in five innings on Senior Night to complete a perfect run through the Triad Athletic Conference.
“We did what we’re supposed to do,” Westchester coach Joey Hammond said. “We talked about it before the game that some games mean a little more, some things are bigger than the game itself. And when you have a Senior Night like this, that was the goal.
“We wanted to enjoy our seniors, have a good time and support them because we only have so many games left with them. We do want to have the professionalism and an approach, and our guys did a great job with that. We swung the bat well, handled the ball and did what we needed to do.”
The Wildcats (16-5, 10-0 TAC) totaled 24 hits and batted around in three of their four at-bats. They scored seven runs in the first inning, eight in the second and seven in the fourth against the Royals (3-15, 0-10) to maintain complete control throughout.
And that’s what they needed to do: remain focused on playing well, especially heading into Tuesday’s game against 3A powerhouse Wesleyan Christian and leading into the TAC tournament Thursday and Friday and into the state playoffs the following week.
“I think we’re playing great as a team,” senior outfielder W.J. Jessup said. “Everybody’s doing their jobs, situational hitting’s good, and the chemistry’s great. It’s just a really good feeling.
“We have to stay focused and keep working hard every day in practice. We’ve been taught by great coaches, and they tell us: no days off, and don’t take any at-bats for granted. Also, you never know who’s watching.”
All four seniors — Jessup, Markel Johnson, Luke Puckett and Micah Hedgepeth — played well. Jessup went 4 for 4 with a double and three RBIs at the plate and pitched the top of the fifth. Puckett went 4 for 4 with two RBIs and picked up the pitching win in his second start.
Johnson went 3 for 3 with a double and three RBIs while Hedgepeth finished with two hits and an RBI. Myles Sowell and Abraham Hernandez each added two hits, with Sowell tallying one RBI while Hernandez had two. Adam Kirkman also had a double and three RBIs, and Andrew Couch two RBIs.
Justin Morris took the loss in one-third inning for Burlington Christian, while Brendon Camons had the lone RBI on a two-out single in the third.
Westchester, which, as the top seed, earned a first-round bye in the TAC tournament, plays Tuesday against Wesleyan at 6 p.m. at Ed Price Field. It will then play Thursday at 2 p.m. at Trinity of Durham against the winner of the No. 3 seed vs. No. 6 seed game.
“We haven’t seen all the 2A teams, but we’ve seen a lot of them,” Hammond said. “And this isn’t from a sense of arrogance, and I think every good team should feel this way — if we do what we’re capable of doing, the end result will take care of itself. We firmly believe that.
“Handle our business, do our job. Pitchers execute the right pitches. If the ball’s hit to you, you make the play. And if you’re in the batter’s box, you have a quality at-bat. If we do that, we feel like it’s irrelevant who we play — and that’s no disrespect to our opponent.”