Prep Baseball: East Rowan 11, North Iredell 1
By David Shaw
GRANITE QUARRY ó No one needed more proof, but East Rowan provided some anyway Tuesday night.
The NPC champion Mustangs demonstrated once again why they are the cream of the conference, bashing 14 hits and improving to 16-0 in league play in an 11-1, six-inning victory over visiting North Iredell.
“We’re just doing what we’re supposed to be doing,” infielder Ethan Fisher said after collecting three singles and a pair of RBIs. “And it’s paying off.”
Paying off with interest. With the conference title and a state playoff berth secured, East (20-2 overall) has its eye on a third prize ó an undefeated NPC season. All that separates it from perfection are victories at home Friday against Northwest Cabarrus and at Statesville next Monday.
“You can’t get nervous with these guys,” said coach Brian Hightower. “They’re very professional, very even-keeled, and just go out and play. They get upset sometimes, but they’re always ready to play.”
North coach Matthew Poole came away impressed after the Raiders (9-9, 7-9) were mercy-ruled by East for the second time. “They’ve got too many weapons,” he said. “You’ve got to make the routine plays ó and some others ó to beat a team like that. They’re tough.”
Winning pitcher Corbin Shive was the toughest. After yielding three hits including a run-scoring single by Aaron Johnson in the top of the first inning, the Mustangs’ ace turned into a bulldog on the mound.
“I kidded with him and told him I was gonna take him out,” said Hightower. “But you know, you’ve got all the confidence in the world in him. He’s been doing it for two years and he did it again tonight. He doesn’t give anything away and he makes you put the ball in play.”
Shive (8-0) retired 13 of the last 14 batters he faced, exiting after five innings with eight strikeouts and no walks.
“A lot of those guys were sitting on fastballs,” Shive said after maintaining a 1.38 ERA. “So I had to change speeds a lot instead of going right after them. It all worked out.”
It worked out because the usual ó and not-so-usual ó suspects produced at the plate. Senior Trey Holmes delivered three hits, including a two-out, two-run single that gave East a 5-1 lead in the last of the fourth. And Micah Jarrett, the senior with the gaudy .458 batting average, went 2-for-3, stole a base and tied the score with when he grounded a 3-2 pitch from righthander Brett Earnest through the left side in the third.
But there were contributions from the next wave of Mustangs as well. Sophomore Noah Holmes stroked two-run doubles in third and fourth innings. Fisher singled twice in East’s seven-run fourth. And Zack Smith had a double and a triple and scored the game’s final run when Fisher drilled a base hit to right with none out in the last of the sixth.
“It’s a good team,” said the younger Holmes, who doubled his RBI total to eight. “Everybody goes up there trying to get the job done, trying to get runs across the plate.”
Poole couldn’t help but notice.
“The difference,” he said, “is we’ve got hitters one-through-five. They can hurt you one-through-nine.”
Eight of the nine batters in East’s lineup are hitting above .300 and the other ó catcher Austin Shull ó has cracked three home runs.
“That’s what makes our lineup so good,” said Hightower. “There are no soft spots. So I’m never surprised.”
Contact David Shaw at email@example.com.