Wes Nicol was money when Westlake needed him most, and the Chaparrals cashed in a come-from-behind 6-5 extra-innings win over Anderson March 13.
Nicol hit a two-out, two-run double in the bottom seventh inning to cap a three-run rally that pulled Westlake (12-7, 2-1) even with the visiting Trojans. The Chaps clinched the win in the bottom of the eighth on a bases-loaded wild pitch, scoring Alex Cabezas with the winning run.
Duncan Brown picked up the win with two innings of relief after Tate Shaw pitched six innings.
“Honestly, I just try to keep my mind as clear as possible and put the bat on the ball, square up the ball,” Nicol said. “We all knew we needed to make solid contact and not try to be a hero, play for the team not for ourselves.”
The seventh-inning rally began with a one-out double by Carson Spencer, followed by a walk from Shaw. After another out, Westlake patiently came back with two outs and no room for error.
Aaron Black sliced a single solidly up the middle to score Spencer, setting up Nicol’s blast to the centerfield fence to score Shaw and Black for a 5-5 tie. Brown set down the side in order in the top of the eighth to give the Chaps a chance at the walk-off win.
Cabezas drew a one-out walk, but Spencer flied out to center for the second out. Shaw then took another walk, and Landon Lau drew a full-count walk to load the bases for possibly the Chaps hottest hitter, Black.
The senior second baseman stood in but a pitch got away from Anderson’s (3-12) Kirby Hill, allowing Cabezas to scamper home for the victory.
“[That win was] critically important,” Westlake baseball coach Jeff Montgomery said. “We’ve got to establish the fact we’re a winning team; that’s huge. The guys swing it like nobody’s business, and they’re great at the plate and are solid fielders and our pitching is good. We’ve just got to go out there and play like that every time we step on the field.”
Shaw got off to a rough start before settling in, allowing the Trojans to score once in the first and twice more in the second for a 3-0 lead. He settled in from there and didn’t allow another run in six innings.
“When I came out, my arm was feeling alright, not great but not bad,” Shaw said. “We talked about my stride length, I wasn’t going far enough, and it was a little short. [This win] says we can do everything.”
The Chaps got one back on a Cory Takenaka RBI single in the bottom of the second to make it 3-1.
Spencer had an RBI single to score Zach Suarez in the fourth to make it a one-run game, where it stood until the seventh.
With Shaw’s pitch count climbing, Westlake went to the bullpen and Brown had a hard time settling in at first, coupled with some Anderson luck, and the Chaps trailed 5-2 heading to the bottom of the seventh.
The Chaps clamped down from there and took the much-needed district win.
“We’ve had a lot of trouble with close games,” Nicol said. “The ones we win are big games; the close games we kind of fall apart on, so this is a really important win for us to get our confidence up and realize we can come from behind in the last inning.”
Westlake also beat Akins last week, getting a great performance from Paul Kirkpatrick in an 11-1 victory.
Westlake led 2-1 heading to the fourth before putting up three runs in the fourth and five more in the fifth to put it away.
Kirkpatrick went the distance to net the win, while Nicol and Suarez had two RBIs each. Shaw was 3-for-5, Black scored three times, while Bennett Huddleston added an RBI as well in the win March 12. The Chap righty went the distance, allowing three hits and two walks with eight strikeouts.
“It was really encouraging having a strong defense behind me in the field, and Zach Suarez did a great job behind the plate,” Kirkpatrick said. “It feels good. This win [over Anderson] really defines our team not giving up late.”
Montgomery was impressed with Kirkpatrick’s performance as well.
“Paul looked really good,” he said. “He had a bunch of strikes, kept his pitch count low and hit his spots. I’m really impressed with how he’s hitting all of his spots right now.”
Winning big one day, then turning around for a comeback win the next day put a newfound confidence throughout the Chaps.
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