April 28, 2005
It was Senior Night for Westwood’s baseball team and senior pitcher Matt Neil did his part. A little help in the sixth inning from junior Jay Leal, however, didn’t hurt the Warriors in their quest to nail down the final 5A East Valley Region playoff spot.
Neil’s 11-strikeout performance combined with Leal’s three-run homer in the sixth inning that proved to be the difference helped Westwood clinch a region tourney berth with a 4-2 victory over Skyline Wednesday night.
‘‘If you didn’t know the records of the teams you’d have thought it was two teams playing for first place and not the last playoff spot,’’ first-year Westwood coach Brian Stephenson said. ‘‘Both pitchers pitched as well as any high school kid could pitch.’’
Westwood (11-15, 4-12-1) will play Red Mountain in a bestof-three series next week for a state tournament berth. Skyline (7-21, 3-14) finishes its season today against Red Mountain.
Neil, the Warriors’ top pitcher this season, evened his record at 4-4 as he dueled Skyline’s Britt Goodman (3-9). Goodman fanned nine and walked one. Neil walked three to go with his 11 strikeouts and all his walks came in the top of the seventh when Skyline rallied to try and negate the three-run homer by Leal.
Goodman’s only walk — a leadoff pass to Daniel Zapata in the third — led to Westwood’s first run. Zapata scored on a single by Levi Chestnutwood. The three runs Westwood added in the sixth were all unearned as a dropped pop-up led to Leal batting with two runners on. Leal, who had fanned his first two times up, lifted the first pitch he saw from Goodman over the left-field fence, giving Neil a 4-0 cushion.
Skyline didn’t quit in its final at-bat. Nick Hartzell drew a leadoff walk. Chad Willis, who sent Leal to the warning track in the fifth with a long fly, homered to right this time to cut the lead to 4-2. Neil issued two more walks, sandwiched around a strikeout, bringing the winning run to the plate. Neil finished the Coyotes by striking out Jeff Wienke and Cody Pride.
‘‘We’ve had a lot of games we’ve lost by two runs or less,’’ Skyline coach Gary LeFevers said. ‘‘This is a scrappy group. They work hard. The effort is there. Just disappointment that we didn’t win a few more games.’’