The Wesleyan Trojans defeated the Southeast Guilford Falcons by the score of 5-0 to win back-to-back Farm Bureau Invitational Championships on Friday night at First National Bank Field in Greensboro.
The story of the night was the Wesleyan pitcher, Jacob Cozart, the Trojans usual closer making his first start of the season for the Trojans, going the distance, and throwing a shut-out.
Trojans head coach Scott Davis spoke with Cozart about the start and his answer was what any coach would want to hear.
“We talked to Jacob last week and told him that we wanted to throw him in game three,” Davis said. “His answer was ‘Yes sir, coach’ as always he is ready to go, no matter what the situation.”
Since Cozart was making his first start of the year, his coach imagined he would need to go to the bullpen at some point. Cozart told him that wouldn’t be necessary.
“Our idea was we would get three or four (innings) out of him and then we would go to the bullpen,” Davis said of his plan for the game. “I talked to him last night and he said ‘I want to go the distance’, so the confidence was obviously there and he threw a tremendous game and kept us in it.”
Although both teams reached base in the first inning, their runners were unable to advance, Wesleyan because of a pick-off by Southeast starting pitcher Will Fousek, and Southeast because of a strike out and a line-drive hit directly to Wesleyan first-baseman Caleb Cozart.
The Wesleyan bats went right back to work in the second when Jacob Cozart helped the cause by singling to start the inning. Chet Sikes followed with a walk, then made his way around the bases to score the first, and game-winning run on a sacrifice fly by Nick Boles.
The Falcons appeared to be going to answer the Trojan lead in the second inning when they had a runner reach third base with one out, only to leave the man stranded. Although the Falcons were hitting the ball hard, they couldn’t buy a hit.
Wesleyan drew blood against the Falcons once again in the top of the fourth inning, scoring two insurance runs for Cozart.
Southeast had men on first and third with two out in the bottom of the fourth, but again were unable to capitalize with runners in scoring position, something that had been an issue for the team the entire tournament.
Although the Trojans were leading 3-0 after four innings, there seemed to be plenty of baseball left for the Falcons to make a comeback.
The comeback never happened, however, mainly due to the incredible pitching performance by Jacob Cozart. The sophomore right-hander found himself in some jams because of defensive mistakes behind him, but he stayed level-headed and made the pitches he needed to get the Falcons out.
The Trojans made an uncharacteristic three errors in the game, something Davis felt was due to lack of experience.
“We kicked it around some defensively,” the coach said. “We’re young and are trying to find ourselves at a lot of those positions, so we have a little bit of inexperience, but Jacob was able to overcome it and we scored enough runs to win the game.”
Fousek looked as though he had run out of gas in the top of the final inning as he walked the first batter, hit the third, and walked the fourth – the final batter he faced. Zach Simmons came on in relief of Fousek, who pitched 6.1 innings, gave up five runs, all earned, on five Trojan hits. He struck out three, walked four, and hit a batter. His downfall, however, was three wild pitches that were big in Wesleyan’s insurance runs in the fourth.
The Trojans capitalized on the base-runners that Fousek allowed before exiting in the seventh, plating two more runs to make the score 5-0.
Cozart, on the other hand, didn’t seem tired at all when he came out for the final inning of play, something you wouldn’t expect from a young man making his first start of the season. After the Trojan shortstop dropped a pop-up to start the inning, he struck out the next batter, induced a grounder to second, and then finished the game off with a three-pitch strikeout of Falcons pinch hitter Ethan Hill.
Cozart threw a complete game shut-out, allowed four Falcon hits, struck out four batters, and walked none, something to be very proud of.
“Not giving up a walk feels really good,” Cozart said. “That’s the first time in a while that I’ve gone without walking anyone.”
Davis also emphasized the early runs that the Trojans scored in the game.
“It’s very important to score early,” he said. “Especially because they came out aggressive and hit some balls really, really hard at our guys.”
Davis was happy with the win and is looking forward to the rest of the season as the Trojans will begin the NCISAA playoffs in two weeks.
“I’m really pleased with our team,” he said. “We feel great (getting closer to the playoffs).
The winning pitcher had a simple game-plan, and stuck to it.
“I came in and just wanted to pound the zone and throw strikes, that’s what I did, and it worked” Jacob Cozart said.
“It feels really good to get the championship win, especially against a good opponent like Southeast,” Cozart added. “They are always wild, they play really hard and don’t give anything up. It feels really good to be back here and hopefully we can carry this on to State’s.”
On the other side of the field, Falcons head coach Dave Beasley struggled with his team’s defeat, but the way they lost stung the most.
“We gave them every run they scored by not making fundamental plays,” Beasley said. “As a coach you try to drive the importance of making those plays in their heads, and sometimes it gets frustrating, but you have to remain positive.”
Beasley felt his starter pitched well.
“I thought Will did a good job,” Beasley said. “He only gave up three or four hits.”
The coach talked about the missed opportunities.
“We hit so many ropes. In the first inning we had second base stolen and the batter hit a foul ball, sending the runner back to first, and on the next pitch we hit a missile that would have been in the corner because he would’ve been playing way off the line instead of holding the runner on. Instead it’s a line-out to end the inning. There were so many more times where we could’ve scored and didn’t because they made the plays.”
Beasley emphasized the importance of playing good opponents.
“You play tough games like this because you get the atmosphere, and get the pressure, and makes you better.”
After the loss, he feels his team could go either way, but is confident.
“I think we’re right at the point where we can take a huge step forward, or take a step back. We are right in the position that we want to be in. We won the conference. It’s up to us to decide where we’re going to go. I feel good about where we left from out here.”
As is customary in the tournament, one senior player from each team in the championship receives a generous $500 scholarship from Dale Moser’s Farm Bureau Agency in High Point. This year’s recipients were Ryan Douglas from Southeast Guilford and Alex Jordan from Wesleyan.
Southeast Guilford falls to (17-6) with the loss and will start their conference tournament next week.
Wesleyan improves to (12-4) with a couple of regular season games left before their playoffs start.