NPC Baseball Tournament: South seniors carry Raiders into semifinals
By Mike London
LANDIS — On its third try, South Rowan’s baseball team finally was able to conduct Senior Night.
Seniors were honored in unorthodox circumstances — the first round of the NPC tournament — but South’s big senior class rose to the occasion in a 13-5 win against West Iredell.
Dillon Parker drove in four runs, Nathan Lambert (3-1) was the winning pitcher, and Dylan Goodman had two hits and scored two runs.
And then there was Eric Tyler, who was, well ... Eric Tyler.
The East Carolina-bound catcher had three hits, including two doubles, and gunned down two baserunners in game-changing situations.
“That kid is the best catcher I’ve seen in 15 years,” said West Iredell coach Randy Martin. “That’s what I just told him. I can’t speak for anyone else, but as far as player of the year in this league, he’s mine.”
South coach Thad Chrismon is relishing the homestretch of Tyler’s career. Chrismon even let him play a little second base Wednesday, so now Tyler has been used at seven different defensive positions.
“He’s the smartest player I’ve ever been around,” Chrismon said. “He makes an impact every game defensively. He does the things there aren’t stats for, things that don’t get noticed. He’s very special.”
Sixth-seeded West Iredell (6-14) scored twice in the first and would’ve scored more except Tyler rifled a throw to second to nail Garrett Bell, who singled home a run and then tried to continue to second on a late throw home.
“The throw went through and we teach moving up on that play every time,” Martin said. “With any other catcher, he makes it to second.”
West Iredell hurler Luke Elliott (2-5) took a 3-0 lead to the bottom of the third, but that’s when South put up seven runs.
A walk, a hit batsman and Tyler’s bunt single loaded the bases. Parker doubled home two runs with a drive to deep right before another walk reloaded the bases. Third baseman Dwayne Williams robbed Lambert of a hit with a diving snag, but Jake Fulton walked for a 3-all tie.
With two men out, No. 9 hitter Eric Stowe was at the plate. With the count full, Stowe produced a single to right-center that drove in two runs and put the third-seeded Raiders (17-7) ahead to stay.
“Looking opposite field with two strikes and I was able to put a good swing on it and drive it,” Stowe said.
A huge error followed, and South had a seven-spot.
Brett Pope doubled in two runs in the fourth to cut South’s lead to 7-5.
When Bell walked to start the fifth, the Warriors had a shot, but then Tyler struck again. When Wesley Deal swung and missed on a hit-and-run, Tyler threw a strike to nail Bell at second.
“Lambert competed hard for us,” Tyler said. “I wanted to make a play for him.”
South secured victory with a six-run fifth. Tyler mashed a two-run double and Parker had a two-run single.
“We gave them too many baserunners with 11 walks and hit batters,” Martin said. “You just can’t keep pitching to the top of their lineup because their top is as good as anyone’s.”
With realignment, West Iredell won’t be competing against Rowan next year. Martin will miss the battles.
“Playing Rowan schools made us better,” he said.
Tyler offered a salute to the Warriors.
“I always enjoyed playing that bunch,” he said. “They always played with class.”
South will host East Rowan in a semifinal tonight at 7.