Raiders outslug East
By David Shaw
LANDIS — South Rowan has had to wait in line all season, but here’s the good news — it’s still standing.
The Raiders used a five-run seventh inning Thursday night to gain an 11-6 victory over East Rowan in the NPC semifinals, earning a berth in tonight’s championship game against top-seeded Carson.
“Tonight was a huge game,” winning pitcher Dillon Parker said after third-seeded South (18-7) stretched its winning streak to five games and beat the Mustangs for the second time this season. “Not only to prove a point to them, but we’re trying to win a championship, hoping to hang a banner. We’ve been working all season to get to this game.”
They can address a thank-you card to Parker, the senior righthander who was more sturdy than spectacular. He yielded 11 hits in a complete-game effort, but didn’t walk a batter, induced 10 groundouts and retired seven of the last eight men he faced. He needed just 94 pitches to improve to 8-1.
“Dillon is a tough, senior pitcher,” said SR coach Thad Chrismon. “He gets better as the game progresses and makes adjustments off of what they’re hitting.”
East coach Brian Hightower said he was pleased with his team’s performance until the final stages.
“To be honest I liked the way we played until the seventh inning,” he said after the No. 2 seed got planted. “Yeah, one big error cost us. But for the past three weeks we’ve been able to bounce back from mistakes like that and tonight we almost did it again.”
East (12-13) had a 2-0 lead before South was able to first solve Mustangs’ starter Connor Johnson, a a quick-working southpaw who retired 10 of the first 12 hitters he saw. But in the top of the fourth an infield error helped South plate four runs — the last three on Jonnie Lefebvre’s third home run of the spring.
East tied the score 4-4 on Hunter Poston’s infield hit and a delayed steal, then tied it again 6-6 when junior Michael Caldwell launched a two-run homer in the last of the fifth.
“I think (Parker) wanted to throw it inside, but it was right down the middle,” Caldwell said after going 3-for-4. “Still, he didn’t do bad at all. He filled up the (strike) zone.”
South’s game-winning rally came against East reliever Chase Jarrett (3-4), a righthander with a heavy fastball who retired South in order in the top of the sixth. In the seventh he walked South’s first two batters, then allowed Eric Tyler’s bunt single to load the bases. Parker (3-for-4) put SR ahead with a flare single to right and Blake Sechler followed with a two-run double to left. Another run crossed on a wild pitch and South’s final run came on Matt Honeycutt’s groundout.
“We needed to get it done,” said Lefebvre. “If we didn’t score then, who knows what could have happened. Now we get another chance at Carson. All we’ve got to do is make it count.”