Prep Baseball: East Rowan 7, South Rowan 3
By David Shaw
LANDIS ó East Rowan’s baseball team wasn’t perfect on the field Tuesday night, but it remains unblemished in the North Piedmont Conference.
The front-running Mustangs improved to 14-0 in league play with a swiftly administered 7-3 victory at South Rowan.
“Ever since we got the win against Mooresville (10-1 on April 15), we seem to be putting it on cruise-control,” coach Brian Hightower said after East (18-2 overall) clinched the conference’s No. 1 seed for the state playoffs. “We’re getting good pitching and playing good defense. But I wish we were more disciplined at the plate and doing more with the pitches we’re getting.”
They did enough to beat South (15-5, 9-5). East packaged eight singles and a double with a bulldog pitching performance by right-hander Corbin Shive to extend its victory binge to 14 straight games.
“We’re not looking ahead and we don’t want to coast,” Shive said after upping his record to 7-0. “Fourteen-and-0 feels pretty good, but we won’t be happy until we get to 18-0.”
South, on the other hand, is part of a congested race for second place. “We’ve been fighting for second for the last few weeks,” said SR coach Linn Williams. “East always does what it has to do to get out of jams. That’s why they’re conference champs.”
The Mustangs struck first in the top of the second inning when they batted around and scored five runs ó four were unearned ó against losing pitcher Jordan Lowder. South committed three errors and East collected five rather soft base hits to cash in.
“They gave us some outs,” said ER’s Justin Roland. “When a team does that, you’ve got to take advantage.”
One run crossed on an infield error, and two others on RBI-singles by Austin Shull and Ben Decelle. Then Roland’s one-out, groundball single up the middle against a drawn-in infield delivered two more.
“We were coming off a real bad practice,” said South third-baseman Caleb Shore. “And then we started beating ourselves. But over the last four innings we played some of our best baseball of the season.”
The turnaround started with Shore, who drilled a 3-run homer to left-center with none out in the last of the fourth. Teammates Ryan Bostian and Maverick Miles scored ahead of him. Shore connected on a hanging, 0-1 curveball from Shive.
“I struggled to hit spots tonight,” Shive later conceded. “I hung the curveball to Shore and I had a lot of trouble locating the fastball away.”
Once he settled down, Lowder had no such problem. During one stretch between the second and seventh innings he retired 14 of 16 batters ó and one of those was erased on a pickoff at first base.
“Lowder pitched great, certainly well enough to win,” said Williams. “If we had made a few routine plays in the second inning, it might have turned out differently.”
It didn’t, largely because the Raiders squandered a golden scoring opportunity in the fifth when they loaded the bases with one out. Shive escaped by fanning Shore on three pitches and watching right-fielder Zack Smith make a tumbling catch along the foul line to rob Preston Penninger of a run-scoring hit.
East padded its lead and closed the scoring on a single pitch in the seventh. Decelle scored from third base and Roland from second on a one-out wild pitch.
“I was leading off second waiting for that scenario to happen, for a pitch to kick off those bricks,” said Roland. “And then it happened on the next pitch. That was kind of funny.”
NOTES: Roland relieved Shive in the last of the seventh and struck out the side in order. … Since there won’t be a conference tournament, East can clinch the league championship outright with a win at West Rowan on Friday. South visits Lake Norman. … Hightower received an early Father’s Day gift from his wife ó tickets to last game at Yankee Stadium on Sept. 21.
Contact David Shaw at email@example.com.