Prep Softball: East Rowan beats SW Randolph to advance to third round
By David Shaw
GRANITE QUARRY — It appears the East Rowan softball team is through window shopping and ready to make a purchase.
The Mustangs rolled up their sleeves and got down to business in Tuesday’s 7-1 second-round win against visiting Southwestern Randolph.
“We just want to go to Raleigh,” shortstop Jessica Rummage said after East (17-6) advanced to the third round of the 3A state playoffs. “We’ve got our goal set — and we’re going.”
That remains a script not-yet-written, but East is certainly a team with optimism and assuredness coursing through its veins. It limited SW Randolph (20-6) — a top seed out of the Mid-Piedmont Conference — to three hits and held the Cougars scoreless until McKenna Hoover crunched a seventh-inning home run against winning pitcher Sydney Poole.
“We’re normally a good-hitting team,” said SWR coach Ricky Martinez. “And we were expecting to hit the ball better today, but I guess the other team didn’t get the memo.”
East can thank Poole, the senior right-hander who baffled Southwestern with a venomous four-seam fastball, a dizzying two-seamer and an occasional changeup. She struck out seven, walked none and faced only 24 batters in a tidy, complete-game effort.
“Usually, Sydney gets nervous, but not today,” noted East catcher Tori Gaul. “She was calm out there, working all the corners. I don’t think she could have done any better.”
Winning coach Mike Waddell said Poole excelled at changing speeds and shuffling pitches across the inner and outer corners.
“They could never key on anything,” he said. “She moved the ball around and hit her spots.”
Poole credited her teammates for their support and focus.
“We’ve all become very determined lately,” she said. “Even today. I get nervous before every game, but I went out there, looked around and just felt this was going to be a good day.”
It couldn’t have started more promising. The Mustangs busted out of their stalls and scored a pair of first-inning runs against SWR freshman Julia Brady. Gaul coaxed a one-out walk, went to second on Poole’s sacrifice and took third when teammate Ally Mills reached on an error. They both came home when Rummage punched an opposite-field triple to right.
“I had two strikes on me,” Rummage indicated. “I knew if she threw me another outside pitch I was going the other way.”
An inning later East stretched its lead to 4-0. This time Brady retired the first two batters before wandering into a minefield. Elane Kepley and Courtney Lyerly served base hits into the outfield and Gaul drew the second of her three walks to load the bases.
Poole followed by paddling an 0-1 pitch into right field for a two-run single. “I just stuck the bat out and went with the pitch,” she said with a post-game smile.
Samantha Williams was the first Southwest batter to solve Poole when she blooped a single over shortstop in the top of the third, but a double play silenced the threat. In the fourth Ashley Floyd was hit by a pitch and Hagen Kiser paddled a ground-ball single into center. That rally fizzled when Poole retired the next two SWR hitters.
It wasn’t until the seventh — after Mills delivered an RBI single and Rummage pounded a two-run, ground-rule double — that the Cougars got on the board when Hoover launched her fifth home run.
“That was just a little too over-the-plate,” Gaul said. “But we all survived it.”
Martinez, for one, thinks the Mustangs are built for the long run.
“Their coach had them prepared well,” he said. “I’m pulling for them unless they come up against Asheboro.”
NOTES: East finished with 12 hits, including two apiece by Lyerly, Mills, Rummage and Steffi Sides. ... East will host Marvin Ridge, a 7-5 winner over Central Cabarrus, in Friday’s 5 p.m. third-round game.