Question: When is one hit enough to win a tough game on the road in your conference opener?
Answer: When your opponent commits six errors and walks nine batters.
That’s exactly the formula the McDowell Titans (1-0 NWC, 2-2 overall) used to escape Gamewell with a 6-4 victory over the West Caldwell Warriors in the Northwestern 3A/4A Conference opener.
Dylan Walker’s leadoff single in the top of the third was the only hit the Titans got. But a combination of errors and miscues by the Warriors led to three-run innings for McDowell in the second and fifth.
A solid performance on the mound from senior Matt Smith helped avert a late comeback attempt by West Caldwell, which scored three times in the bottom of the sixth to throw a scare into the Titans.
Smith went the distance, allowing four runs on eight hits. He struck out eight and walked two, throwing 105 pitches, 72 of them for strikes.
West Caldwell put up a lone run in the first on an RBI single by Thomas Melton, who went 3-for-3 and drove in three runs for the Warriors.
But McDowell took the lead for good in the second. Two runs scored on an error off the bat of Josh Maddux, and Smith, who had also reached on an error, scored on a wild pitch to make it 3-1.
In the fifth, three consecutive two-out walks produced another McDowell run, and an error in the outfield on a fly ball by Smith plated two more to make it 6-1.
West Caldwell closed the gap with three runs in the bottom of the sixth. The big blow was a two-run double by Melton. But Smith battled back and eventually struck out Bailey O’Brien to end the threat.
The Warriors made a little noise with a pair of hits off Smith in the seventh, but the senior worked his way around them and sealed the deal.
Kell Smith walked three times for the Titans and scored twice. Brycen Seymore walked twice, while Nathan Watkins, Dylan Poplin, Ryan Murdock and Walker each drew a free pass. Walker (1-for-3) had the Titans’ only RBI.
Cy Smith took the loss for West Caldwell, allowing five runs, only one of them earned, on one hit in 4 2/3 innings. Smith fanned nine but also walked half a dozen. O’Brien pitched the final 2 1/3, allowing an unearned run, striking out five and walking three.
The Titans hosted the WNC Trailblazers Thursday, but results were not available at press time. McDowell is back in NWC action Friday on the road at Freedom.