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West Ranch rallies on 'surreal' day

Posted: March 21, 2014 10:55 p.m.
Updated: March 21, 2014 10:55 p.m.

The West Ranch Wildcats honored a fallen member of their family on Friday afternoon, and turned the emotional event into motivation in their 7-1 victory over visiting Golden Valley at West Ranch High School.

The team held a pregame ceremony to retire the number of Paul Hammons, a West Ranch High graduate who died on Dec. 31, 2013 of leukemia.

Hammons was a member of the school’s first varsity baseball team.

“It’s a surreal thing,” said West Ranch head coach Casey Burrill. “Someone who just graduated from our program only four or five years ago and passes away. There’s something kind of unnatural about it. It was emotional. It felt right that we got together to remember someone special to our baseball family.”

When the ceremony was over, the Wildcats (7-2, 2-0) wasted no time jumping on the Grizzlies (3-6, 0-2).
The Wildcats’ first five batters reached base in the first inning, as West Ranch took a 3-0 lead on RBIs from David LeBarron and Cade Spurlin.

Staked with the lead, West Ranch starting pitcher A.J. West settled in on the mound, switching up his pitches and aggressively attacking the strike zone.

“We’re early in the season,” West said. “We haven’t been that offensive, but we found our stride.”

On the mound, West picked up the win, allowing just three hits in seven innings with three strike outs.

For Golden Valley, it was John Mark Niednagel who took the loss, going 5 1/3 innings with six hits, five runs, five walks and three strike outs.

“At the beginning of the season at every level you have to show the players you have confidence in them,” said first-year head coach Gino Pomilia. “Whether it’s going with a hitter or with a pitcher until he works his way out of it — something that was the case today.”

Golden Valley had few opportunities at the plate, but scratched across its lone run of the game in the second inning when Jordan Garrett plated Jesse Mark with a double.

The Wildcats opened things up in the middle innings, adding a run in the third and fourth innings, before Jagger Rusconi’s two-run home run high over the right-field fence in the sixth pushed the score to 7-1.

“I had a tough few at bats, I wasn’t staying back,” Rusconi said. “But I waited and he floated a curve.”

West Ranch, which won the Foothill League title last season despite starting 0-2, now sits at 2-0 and will face Hart on Wednesday. Golden Valley will travel to Canyon.

“We like that these two wins are in the win column, last year we started 0-2 so we would rather be in this scenario,” Burrill said. “But we know after two games there’s no league titles handed out.”


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