Trojans will go separate ways on college teams

With the score tied in the bottom of the sixth inning, Northwest Cabarrus was at bat and trying to overcome a Charlotte Catholic rally in their third-round state playoff baseball game last month.

Just like the inning before, the Trojans would play "small ball" to push across a run. This time it was Justin Seager leading off with a single and Taylor West, the cleanup hitter, laying down a sacrifice bunt to move Seager to second.

After a wild pitch let Seager advance to third, Jon Wallace stroked a sacrifice fly to left field to give Northwest a 4-3 lead. The Trojans won the game 5-4, continuing an unbelievable second half of their season.

"Sacrifice" not only describes what seniors like West and Wallace are willing to do at the plate, coach Joe Hubbard says, it also illustrates what they have done for the Northwest program during their four years.

West and Wallace and baseball go way back, to the same AAU team, the Carolina Mariners, when they were 9 years old.

They played at Northwest Cabarrus Middle School together, played on the junior varsity team as freshmen and sophomores and also got a taste of varsity action in their 10th-grade year. Their ninth-grade year helped define them as baseball players.

Wallace tore the labrum in his right shoulder in junior varsity football as a freshman and sat out most of the ensuing baseball season. He returned late in the year and played a little second base because his arm could handle the short throw to first. West played football his freshman year before giving it up to dedicate himself to his first love, baseball.

West started his sophomore season on the varsity but added some games with the JV in the second half of the season to give him more innings. Wallace was the junior varsity catcher and got called up near the end of the season.

With a senior playing ahead of him, there wasn't any room behind the plate for Wallace during his junior year. So he gladly switched primarily to third base to help the team. West found himself as one of several starting pitchers, but he mostly played first base, depending on who was on the mound.

The catching position opened up for Wallace this season, and West and junior Rob Bain combined as a solid one-two lefty punch on the hill. With the Trojans losing two of their three outfielders to graduation last year, West also volunteered to anchor the outfield in center.

With the Trojans 8-8 and the season in the balance, Hubbard gathered his seniors and asked them what they wanted their legacy to be. Of course, they responded with disdain for their lackadaisical first-half start and vowed to rally.

"We sat in Coach Hubbard's office and said we want to be remembered for something," said Wallace. "We seniors talked to the team and said we have the talent to do something."

Northwest won 10 of its last 11 regular season games. The Trojans tied for the South Piedmont 3A regular season championship and won the conference tournament. After their playoff win over Charlotte Catholic, they lost in the 3A west regional semifinal against East Rowan, despite West's 12 strikeouts.

Wallace and West helped lead the successful season and were named all-conference. Wallace batted .380 with two homers and 22 runs batted in. West hit .430 with three home runs and 32 RBI and had a 2.30 earned run average.

Both will be playing in college next year. West signed with Belmont Abbey and Wallace plans to attend Lynchburg College in Virginia.

This summer Wallace and West are playing for the Kannapolis American Legion Post 115 team.