Baseball Falcons Again Reach Round Three - TribPapers

Baseball Falcons Again Reach Round Three

All-state shortstop Jack Lyda watches his deep double, in West’s last-gasp at-bat in round three. Photo by Pete Zamplas.

Mills River – The Falcons did not repeat as state champions. But their tremendous three-year run has helped West to its greatest all-around athletic season ever in 2022-23 and to further success in 2023-24. West was third best among 3A schools statewide in terms of deep playoff drives across all sports, in ‘22-23.

Head baseball coach Jackie Corn Jr. referenced the three-year baseball run in a post-defeat pep talk on May 14. “You put in the time, effort, and commitment” for this success, Corn said. “I appreciate what you’ve done (in again winning or sharing Mountain Seven titles) in baseball, basketball, and football.”

On Sunday, West and T.C. Roberson baseball shared the WNC Sports Award for best large-school, major-sport team – for each winning a state title in 2023.

N.C. State-bound Truitt Manuel gives his all pitch by pitch, in his final Falcon start. Photo by Pete Zamplas.
N.C. State-bound Truitt Manuel gives his all pitch by pitch, in his final Falcon start. Photo by Pete Zamplas.

In 2024 playoffs, the Falcons turned Asheboro bats into ashes in a 3-0 shutout on May 7. They then took the bat “logs” to North Lincoln (NLHS) 8-2, before falling 7-2 to tenth-seeded Tuscola. NLHS eliminated North Henderson (16-9; 8-4 M7) 12-2 in round one.

West Henderson also won spring league team titles in girls’ soccer and softball, and boys’ tennis which won three rounds in team competition. Soccer Falcons (21-1; 12-0) played in round three while track star Emma Hall was at the state meet, also on Monday.

Softball Lady Falcons (19-3; 11-1 M7) creamed Cramer 10-0, then lost 8-3 to Crest in round two. As for Buncombe squads, Owen (20-3; 11-1 WHC) in 2A and 3A Reynolds (12-12; 7-5 MAC) each won twice in playoffs. Enka (16-6; 9-3 MAC) won once in 3A. Reynolds edged league co-champion North Buncombe (12-7; 9-3) 1-0, then out-slugged Ashe County 14-13.

M7 Three-Peat

Falcon varsity baseball went 21-3 overall in 2022, winning the M7 by three games. In ‘23, West finished 27-5, including 8-1 in six triumphant playoff rounds to win its first-ever state championship.

In 2024, the Falcons (21-5; 11-1 M7) “three-peated” for the conference crown. They matched their 19-4 regular-season mark of 2023, and 11-1 league record of the past two seasons.

Rich Revenge

Ironically, league runner-up Tuscola (21-5; 10-2) eliminated West in playoffs. That was in round three at West, on May 14. THS won in round four.

Tuscola’s hard-throwing sophomore Amos Rich out-dueled both West senior pitching aces, who are longtime buddies. He outdid Mason Coren, striking out 14 batters in a 4-0 win on April 23.

West got payback two days later, as Manuel fanned 14 Mountaineers. Manuel averaged two strikeouts per inning. He was 7-0 in the regular season, with a sparkling 0.68 earned run average and 0.73 WHIP. He is heading to N.C. State to pitch.

Rich came up rich in state playoffs, by out-pitching Manuel. He tossed four scoreless innings. West scored both of its runs in the fifth frame, with second baseman Eli Shinn scoring first. Rich struck out six, walked four, and gave up four hits in six innings. Kolt Nelson finished up for THS. He struck out two Falcons. Nelson stranded West’s reigning all-state stars — leadoff batter Jack Lyda who doubled deep, and Manuel whom he walked.

Tuscola led 6-0 after three innings. Catcher Evan Conner swatted two solo homers. Leadoff hitter Jed West, the senior football QB, had three hits and runs.

Precise Masonry

West’s Mason Coren pitched the seventh. He retired THS on merely five pitches. He pitched in the team’s very first inning in 2024, and its final frame. Coren was 8-1 with a 1.13 ERA, through playoffs. He threw two-thirds of his pitches for strikes. Batters hit a measly .175 against him.

Stocky Coren, also a football lineman, varies his pitch angle including a tricky sidearm. He grew up in the West district, played for Erwin where his father coached, then transferred to West for his senior season.

Coren pitched six scoreless innings in the 3-0 playoff-opening victory. He left two runners on for reliever Logan Oliver. Another Asheboro batter got on. Manuel came in with the bases loaded and no outs. He struck out the side, preserving the shutout.

Blasting Bird Bats

West’s 7-2 win in round two was a “bullpen” day using five pitchers — lefties Ryan Kasney and Brady Duvall, Oliver, and Manuel.

There was vintage Falcon hitting with 12 hits and extra power. Manuel, Jackson Lynn, and Amani Perin each homered. Lynn, Jude Lyda, and sophomore Duvall each doubled. Lynn drove in three runs. Manuel had two RBI.

Regular-season leading Falcon hitters were Jack Lyda (.411), Shinn (.408), Jackson Stepp (.400), Lynn (.397), Jude Lyda (.387), and Perin (.362). They are seniors, other than freshman Stepp (one of three Jacksons/Jacks).

Twelve of 21 varsity Falcons are seniors. West has to reload. Coach Corn told his seniors post-game that “you’ve set the bar high” for future Falcon squads. “From this success, you’ll be better in your future. You make the young guys better, for what you’ve done for the program. I love you guys!”