Prep Basketball: East Rowan gets rainy victory over South
By Mike London
GRANITE QUARRY — East Rowan pitcher Connor Johnson’s triple to right field summed up a soggy Friday perfectly.
“I slipped going around first, and then I slipped going around second,” Johnson said. “Then I slipped again, but I still made it to third.”
Johnson made it to third because it looked like South right fielder Tyler Fuller had paid his admission to ride the log flume at Carowinds. He was splashing all over the place.
“It was really messy, for sure,” said South third baseman Dillon Parker, who showed talent as a juggler on some wet groundballs. “But field conditions are part of baseball. You just do your best.”
The Mustangs proved better mudders than the Raiders, winning 5-1 in an important NPC contest. It was a good evening for ducks, East fans and Turface salesmen.
East head coach Brian Hightower, who was serving the second leg of a two-game suspension for an ejection, said the cost of the victory was high — 35 or so bags of Turface Quick Dry solution made Staton Field playable.
It was double payback for East (9-12, 7-4), which avenged the 9-0 beating it took at South on March 19 and also the weather-shortened game it lost to South at Staton in 2012.
Three games involving Rowan teams were moved up from Friday to Thursday because of the forecast. Carson-West Iredell was postponed Friday. It was business as usual only at East.
“I never had any doubt we’d play,” Johnson said. “That’s why we’ve got Turface.”
Brett Hatley served as East’s head coach and won a tough one. He got good pitching from starter and winner Chase Jarrett (3-3), from Josh Gobble, who got out of a serious jam, and from Johnson, who worked the sixth and seventh for his second save.
“Johnson wanted the rock,” Hatley said. “And he shut the door with a dead-bolt lock.”
A postponement may have benefited South. Parker (6-1) would’ve pitched Monday. Not that losing pitcher Aaron Bare (2-3) threw badly. He made it to the sixth, and South was only down 3-1 after five innings.
“I thought our guys were ready to play, and Aaron gave us every chance to win,” South coach Thad Chrismon said. “We had our opportunities. We just couldn’t get that big hit, and we struck out too much.”
South (13-7, 6-5) left 12 on base and left them loaded in the fourth and fifth innings.
East broke on top with two in the first — including a bases-loaded walk to Johnson.
Jarrett was able to strike out Fuller with the bases full to end the South fourth, but Hatley turned to the bullpen after Jarrett walked Dylan Goodman to start the fifth.
Gobble allowed hits to Parker and Blake Sechler and a bases-loaded walk to Bare that produced South’s lone run, but then he got a huge strike out and a checked-swing roller off the bat of Jonnie Lefebvre to protect a slim 2-1 lead.
Dustin Ritchie, a catcher who is serving as East’s DH as he recovers from Tommy John surgery, got that run right back when he lined a fastball hard to center field to score Ike Freeman for a 3-1 lead. Ritchie agreed it was an ideal night to be a DH.
“Running the bases was really the hardest thing,” he said. “Your feet would go right out from under you.”
Johnson was batting .154, but his slip-and-slide triple kicked off a productive sixth for East. Hunter Poston and Hunter Brooks brought big insurance runs home.
Parker singled to start South’s seventh, but then Johnson struck out three straight.
“Earlier in the year Connor was just throwing hard,” Hatley said. “Now he’s got three very good pitches. He threw some nice sliders tonight.”