Thursday, March 31, 2016

Rowdy West Homers to Power Bluejays Past Shamrocks; Shuts Them Down in 7th to Preserve 11-8 Win

Northeast Nodaway's Bluejays were fighting for their lives against North Harrison Thursday night. Playing their first ever game as a franchise, Rob Claycomb's squad was supposed to be an easy tuneup before Friday night's match with North Nodaway. But the Shamrocks put on a surprising display of power and had Northeast down for the count before they righted themselves in the later innings. Finally, after North Harrison rallied to tie it at 8, Rowdy West put them ahead to stay with his bat and then shut them down with his arm to preserve the win.

Northeast was fighting for their lives at one point. After dropping an extra inning struggle, 7-4 to South Nodaway, they did not want to go to 1-3 on the season. And they looked headed for that as the Shamrocks were launching shot after shot over the fence as they trailed 5-2 at one point. But they scored two in the third and four in the fourth to right the ship.

Lane Huitt singled home Randy Rinehart for the first-ever run for the Shamrocks in the top of the first, but then Max Giesken welcomed them to high school baseball with a first pitch shot over the center field fence just to the right of the center field pole to tie it up. It was similar to a first-pitch shot he hit last year off Garret LaMaster to put Northeast up 1-0 and right their ship last year and spark a run that led to their second straight conference title. Rowdy West crashed one off the right field wall to score Spencer Weir to make it 2-1 in the bottom of the first. Andrew Freemyer hit a slow roller to short with one out and was out at first; Coach Vance Proffitt sent Weir home from second on the play and he should have been safe, but for some reason, the umpire missed the call and called him out, swinging the momentum North Harrison's way.

North Harrison then proceeded to score three more in the third after Northeast went scoreless in the second. Back to back doubles scored Lucas McChesney, and then Collin Castleberry hit the first of his two home runs to make it 5-2 and put Northeast on the ropes. North Harrison looked for an insurance run as Kelvin Owens reached second on an error, but Rowdy West threw him out trying to steal third.

It looked like nothing would go Northeast's way tonight as Max Giesken roped one, but J.D. Baker backhanded one at second to take extra bases away. But then Spencer Weir singled to left. The shortstop was cheating over to second to cover second and Rowdy West hit one right through the hole to put another runner on. They advanced on a wild pitch and then Andrew Freemyer hit one up the middle. J.D. Baker tried to make another spectacular play, diving for it, but the ball caromed off him and into no man's land as both Weir and West scored to make it 5-4. North Harrison tried to add to their lead as two reached on errors and there were runners at second and third with two outs. There was the potential for a big inning as the heart of their order was coming up. but freshman Chet Spire froze Lucas McChesney for the third out to get out of the inning with no damage done.

Chet Spire then helped himself out when he hit a slow chopper that somehow got through both third and short for a base hit. Korey Adwell hit a pop fly behind first that dropped in, but Spire held up in case it was caught and was forced out. But Jill Spire laid down a perfect sac bunt to move Adwell to second and set up a big inning. Max Giesken hit a shot off the wall for a single; it was deep enough to score Adwell from second. Then, Spencer Weir hit the shot of the day when he hit a monster smash over the scoreboard that rolled all the way to the edge of the timber in left. It was the longest home run ever hit by a Northeast Nodaway player.

That chased Collin Castleberry from the mound and brought in Tyler Lundy, but Rowdy West reached when the shortstop got played by a hop and stole second. Andrew Freemyer doubled to left, aided by a bad hop, and West scored on the play to make it 8-5.

But then North Harrison began chipping away as Logan Craig homered to dead center and then Rowdy West made a rare miscue at catcher. With two outs and Castleberry at third, West tried to pick off Castleberry even though there were two outs and Gavin Garrett was down in the count. The throw hit Castleberry, who came in to score and make it 8-7. Chet Spire froze Garrett for strike three to get out of the inning.

The momentum continued for Northeast after they failed to score. With Brayden Welch at third and Korey Adwell at first with one out, Spire laid down a bunt, but hit it too hard and it rolled right back to pitcher Tyler Lundy, who threw out Welch at the plate. Max Giesken grounded out to end the inning.

In the top of the sixth, Tyler Lundy grounded out and Rowdy West made an outstanding defensive play when a third strike on J.D. Baker rolled to the wall. West got to the ball and his throw beat Baker on a close play. That play turned out to be huge as leadoff hitter Randy Rinehart deposited Chet Spire's next pitch over the left field fence as left fielder Colton Wilmes leaned over the fence in disbelief. That finished Spire, who exchanged places with West, who took over on the mound. But Chet Spire obviously had a short memory as he threw out Lucas McChesney stealing after he had singled off Max Giesken's glove to preserve the 8-8 tie.

Spencer Weir whistled a single over third and then Rowdy West hit a long drive to deep left center field. Spencer held up, thinking there might be a play. But a gentle breeze from the north pushed the ball deeper and deeper. The centerfielder might have had a play on it if he had chased after it, but he never moved as the ball kept carrying. Finally, the ball dropped just over the fence and Northeast was up 10-8. Andrew Freemyer popped out and Colton Wilmes struck out, but Northeast manufactured a run as Lundy began fighting the strike zone and walked Brayden Welch and Chet Spire. The second baseman was seeking to hold Welch on second, but then Korey Adwell found the hole and hit it perfectly through the gap to score Welch to make it 11-8.

The question was whether it would be enough to hold off the Shamrocks, with Castleberry, already with two home runs, coming up against Rowdy West, who did not pitch at all last year. Lane Huitt grounded out, but then West plunked Logan Craig to bring up Castleberry. A third home run for Castleberry would have made things interesting, but West acted like he had pitched all his life, tying him up and pulling the string on him with a perfect curve for strike three. Kevin Owens struck out as well, ending the game.

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