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Walser, Green Dragons snuff out Forest Hills


Forest Hills’ Dex Stanley slides to the inside of home plate away from West Davidson catcher Tyler Hudson to score a run during their 2-A state playoff game Thursday night. (Photo by Donnie Roberts/The Dispatch)


TYRO | West Davidson pitcher Jake Walser took time to watch Forest Hills take batting practice Thursday evening and noticed that the team he was about to face was lunging at a lot of pitches.

When the visiting Yellowjackets had to contend with real pitches thrown by Walser, it got a whole lot tougher.

Walser fired a three-hitter and recorded 14 strikeouts against the free-swinging Forest Hills lineup as the Green Dragons took a 5-2 win in the first round of the 2-A state playoffs at Feezor Field.

“They were helping me out a lot,” Walser said. “They swung at a lot of high pitches. We saw that when they were taking batting practice. They were out in front of a lot of pitches.”

And the Dragons (18-9) helped themselves into the second round of the playoffs. They will host the winner of Friday’s game between Surry Central and Wheatmore next Tuesday.

“I’ve been around some good people in this game for a long time,” said West coach Jerry Walser. “One of the things they taught me was that it’s always nice to get the first one.”

Now they feel like they can keep winning.

“Everybody’s talking about how Cuthbertson’s going to win or how Randleman’s going to come back and win it again,” said West catcher Tyler Hudson. “Why not us? We think we’ve got a chance, too. We work as hard as anyone else.”

West had all the ingredients Thursday night — effective pitching by Walser, early runs and the ability to take advantage of the other team’s mistakes in the field as well as swinging at all those pitches out of the strike zone. The Dragons scored two runs on passed balls and another on a throwing error.

“He hit his spots really well early on,” said Forest Hills coach Cory Smith. “Our guys were a little nervous, butterflies. We started waiting on some pitches, got some runners on base but couldn’t do anything. You have to tip your cap to him. He did a good job.”

Forest Hills, the No. 3 see from the Rocky River Conference, concluded its season with a 14-11 record.

Walser (10-3) walked four batters but kept the Yellowjackets off stride by changing his arm motion as well as speeds. The senor right-hander got a lot (12) of his strikeouts swinging.

“When I got behind in the count, I pitched more over the top to keep the ball down,” Walser said. “When I was ahead in the count, I dropped my arm down. I get a lot of movement on the ball when I do that.”

The fact that Walser studied the Forest Hills hitters during batting practice impressed his coach.

“That tells you a lot about him,” coach Walser said. “He’s not only a good pitcher, he’s becoming a complete pitcher. He could have been hanging out with his friends or doing something else.”

Matt Berrier, Koby Martin and Zach Queen all went 2-for-3 to back Walser’s pitching.

The left-handed swinging Berrier jump started the Dragons by leading off the bottom of the first with a line drive single to left off Forest Hills starter David Nash. Berrier moved to second on a passed ball, took third on Justin Cecil’s grounder and scored on another passed ball. The outburst was also helped along when left fielder Tucker Smith lost track of Justin Freeman’s fly ball, which dropped in for a double right after Martin’s line drive double to center.

West tacked on three more runs in the bottom of the second on yet another passed ball, a throwing error and Walser’s infield single. A 4-0 lead after two innings will make any pitcher happy.

“All we have to do is get three outs,” Walser said. “Then we get up and we’ve got a lot of guys who can hit.”

Walser didn’t allow a hit for 3 2/3 innings before Ben Polk doubled in a run. But Polk was gunned down by Hudson trying to go to third after Dex Stanley managed to slide under the tag at the plate.

The Dragons got that run back in the bottom of the fourth when Queen singled, Berrier doubled and Cecil lofted a sacrifice fly.

Forest Hills cut it to 5-2 in the top of the sixth when Stanley raced from third after Queen dropped Hudson’s pickoff throw and the ball trickled into left field. Walser struck out Brandon Truell on a 3-2 pitch to end the inning with runners on second and third.

Walser finished the game strong by striking out the side for the second straight inning.



Mike Duprez can be reached at 249-3981, ext. 218 or mike.duprez@the-dispatch.com.