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Dragons rally to win CCC tournament title


West Davidson pitcher Jake Walser (center) is tackled on the field by teammates Zach Queen (left) and Matt Berrier in celebration after the Green Dragons defeated Salisbury to win the Central Carolina Conference championship Thursday night in Thomasville. (Photo by Donnie Roberts/The Dispatch)


THOMASVILLE | Say what? Give up four runs in the fifth inning of a tournament championship baseball game?

Eh. No big deal for West Davidson.

After a throwing error on a cutoff attempt allowed Salisbury to push across four runs to take a 5-1 lead and seemingly break open the game in the top of the fifth, top-seeded West Davidson responded with a four-run rally of its own in the bottom of the inning, then added two more runs in the sixth to defeat Salisbury 7-5 at Finch Field Thursday night to win the Central Carolina Conference Tournament championship.

It was the first tournament title for West since 2000 and the first time in school history that West has won both a regular-season title and a tournament title.

But for a while there it didn’t look like it was going to happen at all.

Salisbury, the No. 3 seed, loaded the bases off West pitcher Jake Walser with Salisbury’s unstoppable Scott Van der Poel at the plate. Van der Poel promptly singled to center to drive in two runs, and on the throw to the infield, Walser cut the ball off and threw to third in an attempt to cut down Brian Bauk.

But Walser threw the ball wildly into left field, allowing two more runs to score as the Hornets broke away from a 1-1 tie to take a 5-1 lead.

Oops.

No bother.

Walser, leading off the bottom of the fifth, drew a walk off Salisbury starter Scott Freidrich. At the time, it hardly looked like redemption, but before the inning was through, RBI singles from Koby Martin and Tyler Hudson, along with an error in the outfield, and suddenly the game was tied at 5-5.

“That’s what experienced players do,” said West coach Jerry Walser about his team’s resiliency. “We went through a nonconference schedule that was designed to get us to this moment. All those 4-A teams prepared us for very difficult situations.”

And the throwing error in the fifth?

“We’re going to fix it,” said coach Walser. “Things like that happen and when they do, we go to crisis management. Jake Walser made the mistake, he felt bad about it, but then who led the inning off?”

The Dragons went ahead for keeps in the sixth when Walser led off with another walk and was sacrificed to second. Moments later, Hudson drilled a double off the wall in center to score Walser. Then Tyler Redd singled home Hudson.

Walser set the Hornets down 1-2-3 in the top of the seventh to seal the victory for West, now 17-9 overall.

Salisbury coach Scott Maddox said his team simply put too many Dragons on base.

“That’s been our Achilles’ heel all year,” said Maddox, whose team is 9-17 overall. “Unofficially, we put eight (West) runners on base. You just can’t give a good team that many base runners. We just didn’t do the little things right.

“But give West credit,” said Maddox. “They won the league for a reason. They didn’t give up when they got down and they came out and battled.”

Notes: West scored a run in the bottom of the third when Hudson drew a walk and then scored on a triple down the right field line by Redd. ... Salisbury tied the game on a solo home run to left field by Van der Poel. ... Salisbury had two runners picked off base — one off third and another off first — while another runner was caught stealing.