By David Shaw
MOUNT ULLA ó Matt Hall never met an inside changeup he didn’t love ó and he met a beauty Tuesday night.
The East Rowan senior turned a fifth-inning mistake pitch into a decisive grand slam, sparking a 7-4 victory over host West Rowan.
“It was supposed to be a changeup away that came in,” Falcons’ coach David Wright said after Hall crushed an 0-2 offering from left-hander Justin Kidd. “But he got it across his body and right into Matt’s zone. It’s the pitch we wanted to throw, just not the spot we wanted to throw it to.”
East (3-1) had just tied the score 3-3 when DH Will Johnson drew a two-out, bases-loaded walk. Hall stepped in and quickly fell behind in the count, but showed fortitude by fouling off three straight pitches ó each of which crossed on the outside portion of the strike zone.
“That was the best at-bat of the game,” said ER coach Brian Hightower. “We always talk about trying to go the other way with two strikes. And yeah, it was a mistake, but you’ve got to give Hall credit because he took that mistake and hit it hard.”
The drive cleared the fence in deep left field ó a majestic shot that was in the books while it was still in the air.
“I knew it was gone, but I didn’t think it had that much power behind it,” said West’s Davey Fesperman, who viewed the home run from center field. “It went over those batting cages out there.”
Hall, who doubled home a first-inning run that put East ahead 2-0, was just happy to connect.
“It got to 0-and-2 and (Kidd) went away three times in a row,” he said. “Then I guess I guessed right. He came inside. He made a mistake. I made him pay for it.”
An inning later Fesperman brought West (2-2) within 7-4 when he drilled a run-scoring triple off the fence in right field. It came within inches of being a two-run homer, crashing off the yellow line that rims the fence and bouncing back into play.
“That was the right call,” said Wright, who momentarily questioned the umpire’s decision. “The high school rule is different from the pro rule. As long as the ball’s in the ballpark, it’s in play.”
Fesperman finished 3-for-4 with a single, double, triple and three RBIs. “I don’t know what it is,” he said. “I’m just on fire right now. I’m exploding through the strike zone.”
It took a dramatic, seventh-inning finish for East to seal the deal. First West’s Felix Bautista and C.J. Neal drew inning-opening walks from reliever Justin Roland. And when Hernan Bautista legged out an infield hit, the Falcons had the bases loaded with none out.”Roland’s the type of guy who likes pressure situations,” said Hightower. “But he also can’t afford to walk the first two guys and then give up an infield hit. He’s got to be able to attack-attack-attack right off the get-go.”
Roland escaped uscathed when he struck out three straight batters ó including Philip Miclat on a 2-2 curveball to end the game, with Fesperman salivating in the on-deck circle. “I just wanted to get a swing,” he said. “I was ready.”
That’s something Roland was keenly aware of. “All I was trying to do was get three outs before they scored three runs,” he said. “At first I couldn’t locate the ball and they took advantage like a good team should. When I got the last guy I was relieved because I knew Davey was right there and he had really hurt us tonight.”
-NOTES: All seven of East’s runs were scored with two outs. … Hall said he hadn’t hit a grand slam since his Wiffleball days. … East’s Micah Jarrett went 2-for-3. Hernan Bautista had three singles for the Falcons. … Both teams play road games today. East travels to North Stanly and West to North Rowan.
Contact David Shaw at 7dshaw@salisburypost.
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