West Springfield junior starting pitcher Mike Kent allowed his first base runner against South County in the fourth inning on a one-out single by Stallion senior Brent Frazier. The Stallion shortstop’s hit up the middle was not only the first that Kent allowed – it was also the last. The right-hander pitched a masterpiece, striking out 10 and allowing only one base runner in the Spartans’ 10-0 mercy-rule victory over their Patriot District foe.
“This was a game that we had to have,” said West Springfield head coach John James. “Being the competitor that he is, he was focused.”
Kent, facing off against Stallion ace Jesse Beal, who had beaten the Spartans 3-1 earlier in the year, never allowed the Stallions in the game, striking out multiple batters in four of six innings while not allowing a runner in scoring position all game.
“This was probably my best game ever,” said Kent. “I finally beat them.”
With college scouts lined up with radar guns ready behind the chain-link backstop, Kent blew through the Stallion lineup, striking out five in South County’s first trip through the lineup, inducing groundouts against the other four batters. Pitching from the stretch for the first time in the fourth inning, Kent got junior Seth Jordan to fly out and senior Payton Bartlett to pop up to end the inning.
“My mechanics, my work ethic, everything has been better this year and it shows on the mound,” said Kent, who improved to 5-3 this year.
Kent, in his second year pitching for the Spartans, has drawn interest from the University of Virginia, Virginia Tech, Virginia Commonwealth University and the University of Maryland.
“Everybody that is in the local area is talking to him,” said James. “Right now, college is the furthest thing from his mind. I guarantee you right now, he is focused on his next start. He is a guy that likes to take care of his own business and let everything else work itself out.”
<b>WHILE KENT TOOK</b> care of things on the mound, the Spartan bats were able to do the rest. Leading 1-0 in the bottom of the third, senior Jeff Haeuptle reached base on a throwing error and promptly stole second and third. Junior Bryn Renner doubled to score Haeuptle and Charlie Morgan doubled in Renner. Junior catcher Tucker Tobin capped the inning with a soaring two-run home run over the left field wall to give the Spartans a 5-0 lead.
“I saw a fastball low and in and I just squared it up,” said Tobin of his home run.
The Spartans added one more run in the fourth and four in the bottom of the sixth to end the game early with a mercy rule victory.
“We stunk, to put it bluntly. We were off tonight,” said South County head coach Mark Luther, whose team beat West Springfield three times last year, en route to a district title. “Obviously, the concentration wasn’t there. When you don’t concentrate, you don’t play and you are going to embarrass yourself.”
The Stallions committed five errors in the field.
“If they show up like they did tonight, it is going to be a short district tournament for us,” said Luther.
<b>THE WIN PUTS</b> West Springfield in the drivers seat for the second seed in the upcoming Patriot District tournament, behind Lake Braddock. The Spartans split their season series with the Bruins this year.
“They rose to the occasion,” said James. “This was a game that we needed to have. I could sense the focus from the minute that we headed into the locker room.”
James’ message to the team, however, was clear.
“We’re not finished yet. We get back on it tomorrow at practice and get ready for Annandale on Friday.”