BURLINGTON JUNCTION, Mo. — Damon Andrews is as passionate about sports as anyone at West Nodaway High School. The senior is known as the ‘Voice of the Rockets’ during basketball season when many fans were viewing games over a live stream and Andrews donated his time to provide play-by-play commentary for the fans at home.
The senior found himself in a different situation on Wednesday night in Burlington Junction. Instead of relaying the exploits of other players to the fans at home, Andrews found himself as the one attempting to provide the heroics.
DeKalb had all of the momentum. The Tigers had just scored four runs in the sixth inning to cut the Rocket lead to 9-7.
A one-out single brought the tying run to the plate in the seventh inning and also marked the end of the day for Rocket ace Hunter Dawson. Dawson pitched 6 1/3 innings, but the Rockets would have to turn to the bullpen to close the game out.
The situation was anything but your average save situation. The Rockets haven’t won a game since 2018 with a winless season and a lost year to COVID-19 in between. That meant for juniors like Dawson, they had never gotten to experience a varsity baseball win.
With that much riding on the game, Dawson said he knew that when coach Dennis Chitwood motioned for Andrews to come out of the dugout, he could trust what the team was going to get.
Andrews was welcomed to the game quickly with a come-backer to the mound which he quickly handled and flipped to first base for the out.
“I walked out there, I was like, ‘I just have to do my job,’” Andrews said. “Everyone else was doing their jobs all night, and I just had to finish it.”
DeKalb drew a walk to get the tying run on base with two outs, but Andrews buckled down and recorded a strikeout to end the game and kick off a celebration 1,055 days in the making since the last one on May 11, 2018.
“It feels amazing, man,” Andrews said. “Haven’t been in the win column since freshman year and I am happy to go out there and get the win. Hopefully, there are a lot more to come.”
A couple hours earlier, West Nodaway’s offense gave the team its first spark. After DeKalb scored one in the top of the first, the Rockets answered by batting around in the home half of the frame.
The big hit was a 2-run double by James Graham as the first five Rockets who came to the plate scored, and West Nodaway (1-3) took a 5-1 lead.
“I’ve been trying really hard at batting training,” Graham said. “It has been a hard journey. I’ve learned a bunch of stuff and I think it is really awesome to see that I’m starting to benefit from that.”
Graham added another run batted in during the second inning and Gabe Goff picked one up too as the Rocket lead expanded to 7-1.
“That was big because if we get the bats going, that helps our defense out and it just makes for a better game,” Dawson said.
Dawson set the tone in the middle portion of the game as he racked up 13 strikeouts in his 6 1/3 innings. He allowed just seven hits with six of them coming from just two players.
Command bit Dawson in the sixth inning however. He retired the first two batters of the inning, but walked the Tigers’ seventh and eighth batters, then with two stikes on the nine-hole hitter, a pitch got away and hit his foot. Passed balls, an error and another walk allowed four DeKalb runs to score and turned a comfortable 6-run lead into a 2-run save-situation.
“Going back to the fundamentals,” Dawson said on the key to getting out of the inning. “The fundamentals pretty much are the game of baseball, so I just thought about that.”
Dawson and Andrews proved up to the task in the seventh, however, and the Rockets were able to celebrate.
Graham finished 2-for-2 with a triple and double. Mason Chitwood added two more hits and Kaydon Conn, Goff and Dawson each had a base knock.
West Nodaway will look to make it back-to-back wins on Tuesday, but will face a tough challenge with a road trip to Northeast Nodaway.
“I am really excited to see the potential that we have and I think it is going to benefit us further on in the season,” Graham said.