One down, five to go.
The McDowell Titans, fighting for their postseason lives, whipped the West Caldwell Warriors 8-2 Thursday to improve to 11-7 overall and 5-7 in the Northwestern 3A/4A Conference.
Titans head coach Alex Smith said earlier in the week his team likely needed to win most, if not all, its final six contests in order to qualify for an at-large berth in the State 4A Playoffs. The Titans have two more league games next week and three non-conference games to wrap up the regular season the following week.
But it all had to start with taking care of business against the Warriors (4-12, 1-11) in a game moved up from Friday to avoid the rain. That’s exactly what the red-hot Titans did, winning their fourth in a row and their ninth in the last 12 outings.
McDowell got a solid start from senior Juan Campos, and backed him up by rapping out 12 hits. Eight of those came from the top of the Titans’ order, Josh Maddux, Ethan Hamm and Brycen Seymore; but McDowell also got back-to-back, two-RBI hits from eight- and ninth-place hitters Three Young and Chapel Matson.
Maddux went 3-for-4 with an RBI and two runs scored, and led off the third with a solo home run that broke a 1-1 tie and gave the Titans the lead for good. Hamm also went 3-for-4, and Seymore was 2-for-3 with a walk and stole three bases.
Gage Gentry (RBI, BB, SB), Justin Dula, Young (2RBIs) and Matson (double, 2RBIs) all went 1-for-3.
Campos (4-3, 1.86 ERA) got the win, allowing a run on five hits in five innings of work. He struck out four and walked two.
Matson worked an inning of relief, allowing an unearned run on one hit. He walked two and struck out the side. Lefty Billy Cessna (1H, K) also threw an inning.
McDowell took a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the first. Maddux led off with a single to left, and Hamm reached base on a bunt single. An error allowed both runners to move up 90 feet, and Gentry drove in Maddux with a sacrifice fly to right.
West Caldwell tied it up in the second when Devin Bumgarner singled and scored on an RBI double by Holden Triplett.
The score stayed that way until Maddux took West Caldwell starter Bailey O’Brien deep to lead off the bottom of the third. The Titans added two more runs in the frame and never looked back.
Hamm followed the homer with an infield hit, took second on a passed ball and went to third on a wild pitch. Seymore drew a base on balls to put runners at the corners, and an error on Seymore’s steal attempt allowed Hamm to score from third. Later in the inning, Justin Davis drove in Seymore with a sac fly to make it 4-1.
McDowell added four more runs in the fifth. Young’s two-run single made it 6-1, and Matson followed with a two-RBI double for an 8-1 advantage. Both hits came with two outs.
Bumgarner went 3-for-3 with a double to lead the Warriors, while Triplett (2 doubles, RBI) was 2-for-3.
O’Brien took the loss, giving up all eight runs, seven of them earned, on eight hits in 4 2/3 innings. He struck out five, walked four and hit a batter. Triplett finished up for West Caldwell with a scoreless 1 1/3 innings. He surrendered four hits and struck out one.
The Titans host Hickory Monday and travel to Freedom Wednesday in the final two NWC contests of the year. The following week, the Titans host South Brunswick Tuesday, visit Owen Wednesday and return home Thursday to play the Asheville Trailblazers.
McDowell 9, West Caldwell 5 (jayvees) – The Titans used a four-run fourth to distance themselves from the Warriors and then held on for the victory.
Logan Duncan had a big day, going 3-for-3 with a double, three runs scored and four stolen bases.
Ethan Hensley (triple, RBI, 2R, SB), Dusty Revis (RBI), Michael Lewis (RBI, 2BB, SB, 2R) and Ben Barnes (triple, 2RBIs) collected one hit apiece. Cole Weaver swiped four bags for the Titans (8-7-2 overall, 4-6-2 NWC).
Ty Smith picked up the win, allowing two runs, one of them earned, on two hits through five innings. He struck out five and walked three.