By Kyle Gregory
Westlake Picayune Contributing Writer
Westlake baseball maintained its top spot in District 15-5A with a 5-2 victory over visiting Del Valle Friday night.
“We could have played better,” Westlake coach Jeff Montgomery said. “We came out a little flat; we’ve done that twice now. We could come out a little hotter … I think it has to do with just being mentally prepared for the game and being ready to come out here and get a job done.”
However flat the Chaps (20-9, 8-2 in district) may have been in the dugout, they still mustered some good plays out on the field in the early portions of the game.
Starting pitcher Tate Shaw retired the first nine batters that he faced – with a little help from catcher Zach Suarez. A Del Valle batter reached safely in both the first and second inning, and in both innings, Suarez was able to catch the runner stealing. He finished the night throwing out three baserunners total – a personal best.
“I think in one game that’s a record,” Suarez said. “Everything was working tonight. Our pitchers threw easy pitches to throw down, I got good transfers and my arm felt good.”
After an inauspicious three-up three-down first inning, the Chap offense came alive in the bottom of the second.
With one out, Dylan Black reached on a walk and made his way to third courtesy of a single from Alex Cabezas and a fielder’s choice from Suarez. With Cory Takenaka at the plate, Black took advantage of a throwing error by the Del Valle catcher to race home and score. Carson Spencer, the number nine hitter and the Chaps’ RBI machine for the night, drove in Suarez with a single. Landon Lau then drew a bases loaded walk to bring in the Chaps final run of the inning.
After two, the Chaps were up 3-0.
The Cardinals mustered a minor comeback in the top of the fourth, managing two runs on three hits and an error, but it was short-lived. In the bottom of the same inning, Spencer knocked a two-run homer that put the Cavs ahead 5-2.
“I didn’t even see the ball [go over],” Spencer said. “I was just running and listening to the sounds and everybody was silent so I thought I didn’t hit it over, but then everybody started cheering and I was like, ‘Aw yeah!’ I was pretty happy.”
Ryan Cunningham entered the game in relief at the top of the fifth and delivered three solid innings for the Chaps, striking out five of the first six batters he faced and allowing only one unearned run in the top of the seventh.
“The good thing that we did have tonight was that Ryan Cunningham came out and threw lights out,” Montgomery said. “He did a great job throwing tonight. He came out and was definitely laser focused.”
Shaw pitched four innings, allowing one earned run on three hits. He finished with six strikeouts and two walks. Cunningham pitched three innings and allowed zero earned runs on one hit. He finished with five strikeouts and zero walks.
Spencer led the Chaps offensively, finishing 2-for-3 with a home run and three RBIs. The only other Chaps to muster hits were Cabezas and Shaw.
“We came out with the victory, but we should have played better. We should have been more aggressive at the plate,” Suarez said.
Westlake travels to Westwood Tuesday at 7 p.m. in a nondistrict contest.
Friday night, the Chaps will visit Lake Travis in a potential showdown for 15-5A dominance. Should Lake Travis win its game against Del Valle on Tuesday, a Cavalier victory over Westlake would provide Lake Travis with a chance to secure an outright district title.
If Westlake wins, the district title likely goes to the Chaps. The game Friday is set for 7 p.m. at Lake Travis, and both teams have clinched a playoff spot.
“To be honest, I think [Lake Travis] is our biggest rivalry,” Spencer said. “I feel good. We’ll just have to do what we did last time and take care of business.”