CARY, N.C. -- Jesse Nelson came close to getting out of a major jam in the fourth inning. But Harvard Westlake pounced on a bad pitch and went on to score three times in the frame.
The Wolverines (10-2-1) scored a pair of unearned runs in the fifth and held on for a 6-2 victory over Russell County on Wednesday afternoon in the first round of the National High School Invitational at the USA Baseball Training Complex.
"I thought he did pretty good," Russell County coach Tony Rasmus said of Nelson. "In the fourth inning, his mechanics got a little goofy and he walked a few guys. That caused him to give up some runs. After that he was solid. I told him he probably should have lost 4-2."
Nelson allowed only one base runner through the first three innings, and that came on a hit batter, who was thrown out by catcher Chandler Durham on a stolen base attempt.
Joe Corrigan led off with a single and went to second a wild pitch. Arden Pabst singled to left field, driving in Corrigan with the game's first run. Nelson hit Max Fried and walked Alex Horowitz to load the bases.
Nelson got two quick strikes on Tyler Urbach. After a couple of pitches that were fouled off, Urbach was able to single to right field for a 2-0 lead.
"We wanted it to be outside, a foot off the plate and he left it over the middle," Rasmus said.
Nelson then walked Kenny Grodin on four straight balls to force in the third run of the inning.
"When his mechanics fall apart, he starts lobbing the ball across the plate, so it is easier to hit instead of throwing that hard slider that he gets ground balls for us," Rasmus said. "It is hard to fix him during the inning. It is easier to talk to him after the inning and he can make some adjustments."
The Warriors (24-8), who had their 17-game win streak snapped, mounted a rally in the bottom of the fourth.
Rock Rucker led off with a triple to the right centerfield wall. His hit came just a couple of pitches after he just missed a double down the right field line.
Durham followed with a single, driving in Rucker. Nelson followed with a single. But Jack Flaherty got BJ Brooks to fly out and Nic Griggs to ground out to end the threat.
"At first when I hit it, I thought it was going to be caught, but the wind carried it and I had to turn on the wheels and had to get to third," Rucker said. "When I saw the centerfielder turn his shoulders to the wall, I had to go."
The Warriors' defense let Nelson down in the fifth. After he got the first two batters, Pabst reached on a throwing error by third baseman Trevor Davis. After Pabst stole second, Fried hit a ball toward the shortstop hole. Anfernee Grier threw low to first base and when bounced away from first baseman Jonathan Conner, Pabst scored.
Horowitz singled in Fried with a single to centerfield for a 5-1 lead.
The Wolverines added a run in the seventh for a 6-1 lead.
Russell County scored once in the bottom of the seventh. Griggs reached on a wild pitch on a third strike. Daniel Lee doubled Griggs to third. Davis singled in Griggs for the final run.
Russell County falls into the consolation part of the bracket and will play Washington High of New York City at 12:30 p.m. today. Washington lost to Parkview 11-3.
Wednesday at Cary, N.C.
Harvard Westlake 000 320 1--6 10 1
Russell County 000 100 1--2 8 3
WP--Jack Flaherty (4-0) . LP--Jess Nelson (2-1). Leading hitters--Harvard Westlake Joe Corrigan 2-4, R; Jack Flaherty 0-3; Arden Pabst 2-4, 3B, RBI; Max Fried 2-3, 2R, RBI; Alex Horowitz 2-3, RBI; Tyler Urbach 1-4, RBI; Kenny Grodin 0-2, RBI; Michael Vokulich 1-3; Casey Rosenfield 0-2; Wallach 3R. Russell County Trevor Davis 2-4, RBI; Anfernee Grier 0-4; Rock Rucker 1-3, 3B, R; Chandler Durham 1-3, RBI; Jesse Nelson 1-3; BJ Brooks 0-3; Nic Griggs 1-3, R; Daniel Lee 1-3, 2B; Hunter Webb 1-3. Records: Hardvard Westlake 10-2-1, Russell County 24-8.