NPC Baseball Tournament: East’s Brooks a Master Blaster against Statesville
By Marny Hendrick
GRANITE QUARRY — Simply put, Hunter Brooks had the game of his life.
The senior third baseman slammed three home runs, went 4-for-4 and drove in six to propel East Rowan past Statesville, 18-1 Wednesday night in the opening round of the NPC tournament. East got solid pitching from starter Harrison Bell and two relievers as they scattered three hits and fanned 11.
But the game, which ended in the fifth by the 10-run rule, truly belong to Brooks who said he had never had such a productive outing.
“Never in my life,”Brooks said. “It is a great feeling. I was just trying to square it up each time and it just happened.”
With the performance, Brooks now leads the county in homers with four. The No. 2 seed Mustangs (11-12) continued their second half surge to move into the NPC semifinals tonight against South Rowan at South.
“Overall, we came out and did what we needed to do against Statesville,” East coach Brian Hightower said. “Our bats are coming alive and overall, we are playing real well now.”
As for the stellar performance by his leadoff hitter Brooks, Hightower was impressed.
“I will be honest with you, I don’t care who you are playing, if you hit three home runs that is really good stuff.”
The game was actually decided in the first when Brooks hit the second pitch off Greyhounds starter Ausar Rankin to deep left field. A bases loaded walk and a wild pitch made it 3-0 then Brooks powered a 2-run double down the left field line for a 5-0 lead.
Brooks then led off the second with his second homer to left and a 6-0 lead. Statesville responded with their only run in the top of the third on two singles, a walk, then a double play grounder by Jacob Powell to make it 6-1. After that it went quickly down hill for the winless Greyhounds (0-23).
In the bottom of the third the Mustangs paraded 15 men to the plate and scored 12 runs on eight solid hits. Doubles by Chase Johnson, Ike Freeman and Mason Doby were key to the attack but the icing on the cake was a 3-run bomb to dead center by Brooks to expand the lead to 18-1.
“It was a good team effort,” Brooks said, “and everybody came together tonight. That’s really what we have been doing here lately.”
Somewhat overshadowed by the offensive onslaught was the pitching effort by starter Bell and relievers Joseph Peeler and Logan Townes. Bell went three frames for the win, allowing three singles and fanning seven. Peeler pitched the fourth with three strikeouts then Towns closed it out in the fifth with a strikeout and two groundouts. Of the 15 recorded outs, 11 were by strike-outs by the East staff.
Statesville coach Kenny Morrison saw his team close out another winless season at 0-23 with a streak of 65 losses dating back to 2010.
“I really can’t ask for anything more from our players but we are really behind the eight-ball every time we play,” he stated. “But better days have to be ahead.”
NOTES: The Mustangs were led, of course, by Brooks but they also got three hits from Dustin Ritchie, plus two hits and three RBI by Poston.... Statesville shortstop Alec Bowman had two of his team’s hits and scored its only run on the night.