Parker leads South by East
LANDIS — It was Brian Hightower’s 238th game as East Rowan’s head coach, and he was almost on the wrong end of the 10-run rule for the first time.
South Rowan beat East 9-0 Tuesday, and the game would’ve been over at 10-0 in the bottom of the sixth if not for a baserunning mistake by South’s Jonnie Lefebvre. He left the bag early when he tagged up from third base on Tyler Fuller’s flyball to the left-field fence.
No one hollered at Lefebvre too much, however, because he was the offensive hero with a three-run double and a three-run homer out of the No. 8 spot on coach Thad Chrismon’s lineup card.
“I think we sent a message tonight that when we execute we can play with anyone,” Lefebvre said.
The lopsided win also sent a message that South pitcher Dillon Parker is one of the NPC’s top pitchers. He’s now 4-0 and he won a mound matchup against East left-hander Connor Johnson (4-1), who has been the winning hurler in 100 percent of the Mustangs’ victories.
“I felt good, and I was throwing well, but it wasn’t just me, by any means,” Parker said. “Defensively, I couldn’t ask for any more than we did tonight. And offensively, we really picked it up.”
East (4-6, 3-2) entered the night in first place in the NPC, but went to bed tied for third place with the Raiders.
Parker limited the Mustangs to four hits, two by Luke Setzer. Parker shouldn’t have had to pitch the seventh, but he shrugged, sat the Mustangs down 1-2-3 and padded his strikeout total with his seventh and eighth Ks.
“I really didn’t mind pitching another inning,” he said. “I kind of enjoyed it.”
It was a huge game for South in a lot of ways.
South had been hammered by West Rowan and Carson, two teams that East had beaten, but this time the Raiders played at their peak.
“I was happy with how we approached this,” Chrismon said. “We attacked this game.”
After dropping three of four — all against county opponents — South made wholesale defensive changes.
They paid off. Center fielder Dylan Goodman cut a ball off in the gap that kept East from scoring first.
“We talked about how aggressive East would be on the bases,” Chrismon said. “Our outfielders knew they had to go after every ball with a sense of urgency.”
Johnson fanned five in the first three innings, and it was still 0-0 heading to the bottom of the fourth. South caught some breaks in that frame that swung the game.
Blake Sechler walked to start the inning. When Matt Honeycutt’s hard bunt rolled just out of Johnson’s reach and Jake Fulton’s bunt plopped safely in front of a diving Johnson, South had the bases loaded with none out.
Lefebvre then delivered his three-run double that soared over the head of right fielder Samuel Wyrick, who broke in.
After Sechler walked and Fulton blooped a single in the fifth, Lefebvre banged his three-run homer to left, and it was pretty much over.
“We’re just not very good right now, and South played well tonight and Parker did a good job,” Hightower said.
Goodman singled in a run, and Eric Stowe singled home two as South pulled away.
“We’ve worked hard to get things righted,” Chrismon said. “We made plays tonight and got hits in key situations.”