Even though the McDowell Titans hit A.C. Reynolds ace Kyle Cagle about as well as anyone has all season, they still didn’t exactly pound the ball.
But the way the Titans pitched it, they didn’t have to.
McDowell scored an impressive 3-2 win on the road in the regular-season finale Friday to finish with solid 15-9 overall and 7-5 Mountain Athletic 4A/3A Conference marks.
Cagle came into the game leading western North Carolina in earned run average (.36) and strikeouts per inning (1.82). But the Titans scored more earned runs off Cagle (3) than he had given up the entire season (2). The Titans scored all three runs on bases-loaded walks.
Meanwhile, McDowell pitching was dominant.
Left-hander Canaan Silver got the win, giving up two runs – neither of them earned – on two hits in 5 1/3 innings. Silver struck out eight and walked three.
He gave way in the sixth to fellow junior Zach Franklin, who took it the rest of the way to earn the save. Franklin didn’t allow a hit, striking out four and walking one in 1 2/3 innings.
The Titans got on the board against Cagle in the top of the first. Ethan Wyatt smacked a one-out single to left, and Tyler Walker followed with a basehit to right. Cagle hit Sydney Pike with two out to load the bags, and Riley Harting worked an RBI walk to make it 1-0.
McDowell added to the lead in the top of the third.
This time, Walker led off with an infield single, and Michael Wall followed with a line-drive basehit to right. Pike drew a base on balls to load them up again.
Cagle seemed poised to wiggle out of the jam. He struck out Harting and got Silver to ground into a fielder’s choice at the plate. But Dawson Moore recovered from a 1-2 count, and his RBI walk scored courtesy runner Chase Justice for a 2-0 lead. Troy Sheperd fell in the hole 1-2 as well, but eventually walked to plate Pike, and McDowell led 3-0.
That was all Silver and Franklin needed, although the Rockets scratched out a couple of unearned runs in the bottom of the sixth off Silver.
Back-to-back errors led to a two-run single by Josh Dotson with only one away.
But Franklin took over for Silver, striking out Will Moore and getting Griffin Mease to ground into a fielder’s choice to end the inning.
Franklin struck out the side in the seventh, working his way around a two-out walk to Cagle.
Walker went 2-for-4 with a stolen base. Wyatt (1-for-3, BB), Wall (1-for-3, BB) and Silver (1-for-3) got the other Titan hits. Moore, Sheperd and Harting had an RBI apiece.
Dotson (2 RBIs) and Chris Banks got the only hits for the Rockets.
The Titans host conference 4A champs T.C. Roberson – who went unbeaten in league play – Tuesday night at 7 p.m. in Game 1 of the MAC 4A tournament series. Game 2 is set for 4:30 Wednesday at Roberson, with Game 3, if necessary, to follow.