Hornets should still be No. 1
By Mike London
The prep baseball notebook …
Salisbury (16-6) losing at North Rowan (3-16) on Friday qualifies as one of the bigger upsets in modern county history, but the setback shouldn’t knock the Hornets out of the No. 1 seed for the CCC tournament that begins on Thursday.
The winner of tonight’s Central Davidson-West Davidson encounter at Feezor Field will share the title with the Hornets, and Ledford can also tie for first if it takes care of business against rival East Davidson.
Best-case scenario for the Hornets is a West Davidson victory over Central. Salisbury swept the Green Dragons 17-6 and 4-3 ó so the Hornets benefit from any multiple tie that involves West Davidson.
A two-way tie between Salisbury and West Davidson or a three-way tie involving the Hornets, Green Dragons and Ledford, would give Salisbury the No. 1 seed, not only for the tournament but for the state playoffs as well.
The Hornets split with Ledford and Central Davidson.
If Central Davidson gains a season split by beating West Davidson on Tuesday, the Hornets would have no advantage against Ledford or Central Davidson with regard to state playoff seeding, and those seeds will be determined by what transpires in the tournament.
Salisbury should still be the No. 1 seed for the tourney (the reward is a first-round bye on Thursday) by virtue of its sweep of West Davidson.
North Rowan and East Davidson have three CCC wins apiece and split with each other, but North can nail down the No. 5 seed with a victory at Lexington on Tuesday.
POWER SURGE: Salisbury shortstop Robbie Ijames hit his county-leading seventh homer in the loss to North. The Hornets have belted 22 longballs (tied with East Rowan) after hitting five all of last year.
EAST FEAST: East Rowan (19-2) boosted its winning streak to 15 games and clinched an outright NPC title with its 14-5 victory at West Rowan on Friday.
East has won 20 games each of the past two seasons under coach Brian Hightower, but this is the Mustangs’ first league title since they shared the 2002 NPC crown with an A.L. Brown team powered by pitcher Zach Ward.
This is East’s first outright title since it captured the SPC championship in 2000.
East had a dominant team in ’02, with a senior class that included Cal Hayes Jr., Drew Davis, Julian Sides, Bobby Parnell and Nick Lefko, but it lost to Parkwood 2-1 in the first round of the playoffs.
That’s the nature of one-and done playoff baseball, and the sort of history that makes Hightower cautious, even though he knows his team has a chance to make a run.
ARMS ACE: Hightower has pleasant problems such as trying to find work for five quality pitchers when he’s only playing two games a week, especially since ace Corbin Shive (7-0) is going to give him at least six innings when he starts.
Lefty Trey Holmes wasn’t at his sharpest against West, but that just meant opportunity knocked for Cody Laws, who earned his eighth win without a loss, and Kent Basinger, who picked up a save.
“My arm didn’t feel great tonight,” Holmes said. “But it’s nice when you’ve got great pitchers that can come in and pick you up.”
LIKE OLD TIMES: While Holmes didn’t pitch as well as he would have liked, he swung the bat like Ted Williams. Four solid rips lifted his batting average to .393.
SEARCH FOR PERFECTION: One tangible target for East is an 18-0 league season. That would be a school record. East hasn’t been in such a large conference since 1977.
Remaining obstacles are North Iredell and Northwest Cabarrus at home and Statesville on the road.
Northwest provided East’s closest call in the NPC. It led the Mustangs 4-0 at home and led 4-3 going to the seventh before defensive disasters led to a 5-4 defeat.
WARMING UP: West has hit five homers this season ó East pounded five on Friday’s visit to Mount Ulla ó but coach David Wright has improved swings and approaches in the cage and batting averages are climbing after slow starts.
Outfielders Dylan Andrews (.378) and Carlos Bautista (.304), infielder Brett Huffman (.297), second baseman Tyler King (.276), and catcher Hernan Bautista (.344), who is Carlos’ cousin, have taken jumps.
King has enjoyed four multi-hit games in his last six outings from the leadoff spot and turned in diving defensive gems against Carson and East Rowan last week.
Shortstop Philip Miclat (.371), who plans to play Legion ball for Rowan for the first time this summer, has been steady all season.
NPC PLAYOFFS: The fight for fifth and sixth places and the NPC’s final two state playoff berths remains unresolved among North Iredell (7-8), West Rowan (6-9), Carson (6-9) and Lake Norman (6-9).
Three of the four lost Friday.
The head-to-head matchups remaining are Lake Norman-West tonight and North Iredell-Lake Norman on Friday.
West needs to complete a sweep of Lake Norman because the Falcons were swept by North Iredell.
Carson was a lock for the playoffs until recent losses to Lake Norman, West Rowan and North Iredell. The Cougars beat all three on their first tour of the league.
West faces an uphill fight, with games at South Rowan and Mooresville down the stretch.
Carson finishes with Statesville and West Iredell, the bottom two.
There is no league tournament.
SPEED LIMIT: Five South Rowan players ó Maverick Miles, Blake Houston, Caleb Shore, Michael Morgan and Ryan Bostian ó own a dozen or more more steals.
It’s an athletic group. Miles is well-established as a top-flight pole vaulter. Shore practiced the high jump for the first time in a couple of his P.E. classes, then went out and cleared 6 feet for third place in the county meet.
Houston, a sophomore quarterback, point guard and center fielder should be the county’s best football-basketball-baseball dinosaur after East’s Holmes graduates.
Contact Mike London at 704-797-4259 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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