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West Hall's English outduels White Co.'s Adams, 4-1

Spartans' right-hander strikes out 9 in complete game

POSTED: April 9, 2014 9:44 p.m.
Jared Putnam | The Times/

West Hall third baseman Brian Newman records a force out against White County's Will Flowers on Wednesday in Oakwood.

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While there were about 30 Major League Baseball scouts huddled behind home plate to get a look at White County pitcher Spencer Adams, it was West Hall pitcher Zach English who managed to steal the show Wednesday night.

The right-handed English used a heavy dose of his changeup to stifle the White County offense and outduel the professional pitching prospect Adams, leading the Spartans to a 4-1 win over the Warriors in Oakwood.

“(English) was tough tonight,” West Hall coach Dustin Rennspies said. “He was focused. He came in during the fourth inning and told me this was going to be his game. He wanted it and he wanted to prove himself and he wanted to get this win for his team. I’m as proud as I can be of how he pitched, though.”

English’s confidence was bolstered after he got out of a bases-loaded jam with one out in the top of the third inning. After allowing a leadoff single to Parker Applewhite to start the inning, English allowed a walk and a pair of singles that put White County (13-5, 8-5 Region 7-AAA) ahead 1-0.

But English, who improved to 6-0 as a starting pitcher this season, managed to strike out Steston Gearin before inducing a groundout to third base to end the inning.

“Mainly, I just want to get a ground ball to get a double play to get out of the inning, but obviously a strikeout will help reduce anything from happening,” English said. “We played great defense tonight.”

Getting out of the bases loaded jam in the third inning without allowing more than one run was a major momentum boost for the Spartans (13-5, 9-4), who were being held hitless by Adams at the time.

“That was key to the game,” Rennspies said. “When you face a guy — and I don’t know what Spencer was up to today, but I can imagine he was up to 92, 93 (miles per hour) — when you face that guy, runs are at a premium. You’re not going to score in bunches against him, so getting out of there 1-0 and getting into the dugout allowed us to stay in this game.”

English was nearly untouchable for the rest of the night. He retired the side in order in the fourth, before an error allowed a White County batter to reach base in both the fifth and sixth innings. He then allowed a two-out single in the seventh but got a fly out to end the game on the following at-bat.

English finished the night with a complete game victory, allowing one run on six hits while striking out nine, the majority coming when using a combination of his curveball and changeup.

“Zach did extremely well,” White County coach John Brown said. “He kept us off all day. We didn’t hit the ball; we haven’t hit the ball very well the past three of four balls games anyways. You can’t win ball games if you don’t hit it very well, and we didn’t hit it.”

English’s changeup might have been a major reason for White County’s inability to make contact with the ball on Wednesday night. Rennspies said it was in the gameplan to throw a high number of breaking balls against the Warriors, after he looked back at the scouting report of last year’s games against White County.

“They’ve got some guys from last year we kept charts on, and they’ve got some guys who can launch some fastballs,” Rennspies said. They’re a good hitting team. You have to keep them off balance.”

After Adams retired the first 11 West Hall batters without a problem, the Spartans finally broke through with their first hit of the game in the bottom of the fourth inning, when senior Cameron Johnson singled to center field. The following at-bat, Brian Newman connected on a double to score Johnson, knotting the game 1-1.

West Hall added two runs in the fifth inning and another in the sixth to support English’s effort on the hill.

Cam Warner singled to start the fifth before Zack Collins singled with one out. Then with two outs, Lincoln Stubbs doubled to left field, scoring Warner’s pinch-runner and Collins and giving the Spartans a 3-1 lead. Newman then scored West Hall’s run in the sixth inning, coming on a single from Warner.

The Spartans finished with nine hits, a high number against a touted pitcher like Adams, who finished the night with seven strikeouts in six innings of work.

“It started with Cameron Johnson, and after that we said ‘the ice is broken,’” English said of West Hall’s ability to hit off Adams. “Everybody just needed to relax and not press so much.”

Wednesday’s loss marked the fifth straight defeat for White County, which started the season with 13 straight wins and looked like the favorite to win the Region 7 championship.

Now the Warriors are currently the No. 4 seed in what has been a competitive region that includes top-ranked Buford.

“This time of the year, you’ve gone through everything, you’ve practiced,” Brown said. “We won the first 13 games before losing the last five. I don’t know, we just stopped hitting the baseball.”

West Hall visits White County at 5:55 p.m. tonight in Game 2 of the season series.


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