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Not Overpowering, Westfield Baseball Just Keeps Winning

Bulldogs enter the final week of the regular season tied for first place.

There is nothing really overpowering or intimidating about the Westfield High baseball team. The Bulldogs have hit just three home runs all season. On the mound, the teams' top two pitchers, while quite effective, do not blow the ball past opposing batters with top of the line fastballs.

Nevertheless, Westfield, a traditional baseball power in the Northern Region over the years, is, once again, one of the top teams around despite the lack of the long ball at the plate or 90-plus fastballs from the pitching mound.

In past years, Westfield has been a team that belted its share of home runs — anywhere from 25 to 35 a season. But this year's team is not built that way. Instead, the team has proven to be successful on offense by hitting for high average with men in scoring position (.420) and also having a "team first" mindset when hitting. There is nothing wrong with moving a base runner from second to third base by hitting a groundball to the right side of the infield with nobody out. Westfield takes pride in that kind of hitting approach.

"The guys are doing a real good job with fundamental or situational hitting," said Westfield head coach Chuck Welch. "They're moving guys around the bases. The players are very unselfish with their at-bats."

The Bulldogs have a knack of hitting well with runners in scoring position.

"I think we're hitting well in the clutch," said Welch. "We're taking advantage when we get runners in scoring position."

Westfield's top hitters this season have been senior third baseman Aaron Scoville (over .500 batting average), sophomore shortstop Kyle Corwin (.424), junior left fielder Josh Luatua and senior Nathan Colonna (.406).

Westfield accounted for two of its three home runs this season in last week's 12-3 district road win at Herndon on Friday night, May 7. Colonna and sophomore backup first baseman Wade Arduini both knocked pitches over the fence in the win against the tough Hornets (10-5). For both players, it was their first ever varsity home runs.

The homers against Herndon were the exception and not the rule this season.

"This year we just don't hit the long ball," said Welch. "But we do a good job of scoring runs."

<b>WESTFIELD'S TOP</b> starting pitchers have been senior right hander Danny Thorpe, who is 9-0 with a 1.24 earned run average, and junior Aaron Hoover, who is 4-3 with a 2.55 ERA.

Neither pitcher has an overpowering fastball. Thorpe has outstanding ball movement.

"He can't throw the ball straight," quips Welch, of his ace.

But Thorpe, who gives batters a different look with varying release points, knows how to hit both the inside and outside corners.

"He throws from the side and has very good ball movement and deception," said Welch.

Hoover consistently hits the catchers' target.

"He has pin-point control," said Welch.

Westfield, going into this week, was 13-4 overall and 4-2 in the district, which put them in a tie for first place with Centreville (12-5, 4-2). The Bulldogs were set to close out the regular season this week with district home games versus Chantilly on Wednesday, May 12 and Oakton, Friday, May 14.

There is a good chance both Westfield and Centreville will conclude the regular season tied for first place. If they do, Centreville will go into next week's district tournament as the No. 1 seed as a result of having beaten Westfield two times with no losses this season. Both teams, as either the No.1 or No. 2 seed, will receive first round district playoff byes next week and automatically qualify for the following week's Northern Region playoffs.

In contrast, the other four Concorde District teams will have to win first round district playoff games in order to see their seasons continue.

"It's a lot of weight off your shoulders," said Welch, of finishing first or second in the regular season standings and, as a result, earning a first round district tournament bye. "It's nice getting an automatic bye and being rewarded [for a good] regular season."

Both of Westfield's district losses have come from Centreville. The latest loss to the Wildcats came on April 30 when the Bulldogs, playing at home, lost 8-2. Since then, Westfield has bounced back strong with wins over Robinson, 9-2, and Herndon.

"Centreville had our number that day, that's going to happen," said Welch, of the April 30 defeat at the hands of the Wildcats. "Centreville, that day, was better than us."