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Better late than never for East’s Jarrett

By Mike London
Salisbury Post
GRANITE QUARRY ó When you’re 22-2, even practice is fun.
East Rowan coach Brian Hightower rapped rapid-fire grounders at Charlotte signee Justin Roland and Wake Forest-bound Micah Jarrett as an informal contest of dueling shortstops broke out at Staton Field on Tuesday.
Roland made the routine plays. Rotating with his stocky classmate, Jarrett matched him.
Roland made tougher plays. Jarrett matched him.
Roland started making ridiculous plays ó charging, airborne, deep in the hole.
Jarrett matched him spectacularly enough to attract the attention of outfielders Matt Lefko, Zach Smith and Ben DeCelle. The trio stopped catching flies and started doing play-by-play.
“It’s Charlotte versus Wake Forest,” Lefko announced. “Oooh, and it looks like Charlotte prevails.”
Charlotte prevailed when Jarrett finally skipped a throw past first base, but the practice session made it clear Charlotte and Wake will be adding talented Mustangs next season.
Roland was born to play shortstop. He’s also a .364 hitter with 19 steals, plus he’s 3-0 on the mound with two saves and a nearly invisible 0.24 ERA.
Jarrett was fine as an all-county junior (.304, 18 steals, 17 RBIs), but he’s dominated with a .449 batting average, six homers and a county-high 32 RBIs this year. He plays center field, but he can handle shortstop when Roland pitches.
Roland, Jarrett and Salisbury shortstop Robbie Ijames are leading candidates for Rowan County Player of the Year.
“Justin and I have talked about that stuff,” Jarrett said. “Conference player of the year, county player of the year, all of it. What we both agreed on is getting the 18-0 record in the NPC is all that really mattered, and now we’ve got that.”
While Jarrett led East in RBIs in 2007, he’s now bigger, stronger, faster, healthier and more confident.
“Hard work tends to pay off,” Hightower said. “With Micah, we’re talking about a kid that has those can’t-teach skills ó the speed and arm you have to be born with. The rest of it he’s done with an outstanding work ethic.”
Jarrett proved this spring that patience in the recruiting process can be as important as patience at the plate.
It’s unusual to see a senior sign with an ACC school as late as Jarrett did. ACC schools generally get their recruiting done when high school players are juniors.
But Jarrett is special enough that Boston College and Wake Forest chased him hard in April. They made substantial offers, especially for a position player, once they took a look at him.
Jarrett played his first two varsity seasons at Salisbury and did well, batting .330 and .355.
An injury to his left wrist cost him six games and a lot of numbers during his junior year at East.
“He was hurting, but he still went out there and laid it on the line for us,” Hightower said. “I was proud of him.”
Jarrett was a force at the plate with the Rowan County American Legion team last summer, batting .366 with 34 RBIs. He also made a solid impression at the State Games.
At fall showcase camps, he demonstrated blazing speed and impressive arm strength. High ratings boosted his confidence level, but no offers followed.
Last winter, he hit weight rooms so enthusiastically he seemed to sprout new muscles every day. He was interested in Charlotte and UNC Wilmington, but nothing happened.
“The recruiting process can be long and slow,” Jarrett said. “But I was running some good times. A couple of years ago, my best 60 was a 6.9, but in the fall I ran a 6.55. That got me a few looks.”
Moved from the infield to center field for his senior year, Jarrett came out of the chute ripping homers, swiping bases and rifling throws.
In East’s first game, West Forsyth speedster Garrison Lassiter, a North Carolina recruit, tried for two bases on a liner to a gap. Jarrett made sure Roland had the ball at second base waiting for Lassiter when he arrived.
Jarrett also cut down North Davidson’s UNC-bound Levi Michael at home when he tried to score from second on a bouncing single up the middle.
“That’s a couple of ACC guys,” Jarrett joked. “I guess I didn’t make any new friends.”
Tusculum, one of Catawba’s rivals, scouted Jarrett, but he remained unsigned and was considering community colleges as March turned into April.
“I was still trying hard to stay optimistic,” Jarrett said. “It was frustrating, but my mom kept telling me every day that something good would happen if I kept playing well.”
Finally, something good happened.
Boston College was coming to watch West Rowan shortstop Philip Miclat play against East at Staton Field, and West coach David Wright advised the Eagles to check out Jarrett while they were in the ballpark.
“You’ve got to give David a lot of credit for that,” Hightower said. “We competed against each other in college and compete against each other now, but he’s a great friend, and he was very helpful with Micah.”
Jarrett got a phone message at school shortly after the West game. It was Boston College inviting him for an official visit. BC’s interest pried open the ACC door that had been locked to Jarrett.
BC picked up a verbal commitment from Miclat, a slick-fielding junior shortstop. It also would have landed Jarrett had Wake Forest not entered the picture.
“When I called the coaches at Wake Forest, I told them we had a really incredible kid here that was getting a lot of interest,” Hightower said. “They asked me if I really thought Jarrett was an ACC player. I told them there wasn’t any doubt in my mind at all.”
A Wake coach watched Jarrett when East played at Carson.
It was showtime for Jarrett, who unleashed a laser to the plate from center field. The bang-bang call was safe, but the throw was amazing, nearly as good as the one he made when East visited West Rowan. Jarrett also turned on the jets when he lashed a triple.
If the Demon Deacons needed more convincing, they saw Jarrett switch to shortstop when Roland took over mound duties in the sixth.
“They really liked Micah’s arm, speed and versatility,” Hightower said. “More than that, they said they liked his demeanor. They liked the way he hustled without overdoing it.”
BC and Wake made nearly identical offers, and Miclat made a couple of calls to try to convince Jarrett to become an Eagle.
Wake and BC have excellent academic reputations and ACC schedules, but Winston-Salem is about 11 hours closer. Jarrett made the choice that will allow his family, coaches and friends see him play on a regular basis.
“Wake and BC both told me they missed on me last year and that I’d been flying under everyone’s radar,” Jarrett said. “I think when I got bigger it kind of completed me. If I’d been the size I am now last year, I’m sure someone would have signed me.”
Jarrett is thrilled to finally surrender his spot on the “best unsigned players in the state” list, and there’s a lot to look forward to.
Maybe even another round of dueling shortstops with Roland on a college diamond.
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Contact Mike London at 704-797-4259 or mlondon@salisburypost.com.

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