West Stokes pulled out to a 6-0 lead on the way to a 9-2 victory Friday over Mount Airy.
The top baseball team in the Northwest Conference put several balls in play in the early innings and finished the season 13-1 in the conference, 18-2 overall.
“They are a better team than we are, but we have gained,” said Coach Jon Cawley. “They are where we want to be.”
While the loss on Senior Night hurt, the Bears got worse news after the game when a trip to the hospital showed that starting second baseman Wes Hurley had suffered a broken collarbone.
Wes was sliding into the base and the fielder fell onto him, explained Cawley.
Hurley already was battling a separated shoulder that continued to cause problems.
He popped his shoulder out of of the socket, and that weakened the joint. He since has had the shoulder go out two or three more times in the past week, the coach said.
Wes is the best bunter on the team and one of the top hitters too, said Cawley. So he can sacrifice a runner over a base or drive the runner in himself.
Hurley knows the strike zone and is willing to take some pitches.
Against South Stokes, Hurley showed the value of working the count.
The at-bat went 13 pitches long with Hurley fouling off 11 balls, Cawley said. In the end, it didn’t matter if he got a hit or an out because he’d frustrated the pitcher. The Bears won the game 3-1.
“A whole season can be seen in little nuggets like that,” said Cawley.
Also honored on Senior Night were Ty Simmons, Choppy Cawley and Jesus Luna.
Simmons is a good defensive outfielder with speed to burn, the coach said. He bats in the ninth spot so that he can get aboard before the top of the lineup comes up.
“When he is doing well, he gets the whole team going,” he said. “He’s a second leadoff batter.” Simmons has had key hits and RBIs in many of the games the Bears won.
As for his son Cawley, Coach Cawley said, “I very much appreciate him as a coach, and I’m very proud of him as a father.”
Choppy Cawley gives the Bears a powerful bat that can change the momentum in a swing.
In Friday’s game, the score was 6-2 with a Bear on base when Cawley hit a shot down the leftfield line that was foul by only a foot. He came close to bringing Mount Airy back to 6-4, his father pointed out.
Also, Coach Cawley wanted to put the speedy Austin Taylor in centerfield full time to anchor the defense, which left the team short on pitching. Choppy Cawley has helped in that role, too.
Luna is a young man who never played baseball growing up, Cawley explained. He has athletic ability and has shown a willingness to learn, but he didn’t get that many opportunities because he’s still learning the game, he said.
Some things are second nature to guys by the time they are in high school, but the coaches have been working with Luna on fundamentals like knowing which base to throw to and knowing to run on contact with two outs.
“All four of these seniors are a coach’s dream,” Cawley said.