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Prep Baseball: East Rowan cruises into third round

By David Shaw
Salisbury Post
GRANITE QUARRY ó East Rowan keeps firing away.
The Mustangs overcame a sluggish start by winning pitcher Justin Roland and crushed visiting Piedmont 12-2 in the second round of the 3A playoffs Tuesday night.
“I started off slow the last time I pitched, too,” Roland said after East (24-2) extended its victory binge to 20 straight games and earned a third-round berth against Lake Norman at home Friday. “But once I got into a rhythm and started mixing up pitches a little better, I was fine.”
Micah Jarrett’s run-scoring single with two out in the bottom of the sixth capped an eight-run inning and sent the crowd home early. Teammate Zack Smith was 2-for-3 with a double, triple and three RBIs and the Mustangs drew a season-high 13 walks.
But it was Roland ó the senior who had allowed only one earned run in 29 previous innings ó who had everyone scratching their heads. Three of Piedmont’s first four batters reached base and two scored before he recorded a second out.
“J-Ro left a couple of pitches up and they put them in play,” coach Brian Hightower explained. “But we were gonna stick with our horse no matter what. He’s been great all year. Two runs in the first, but there was a lot of game left.”
After yielding an RBI-triple by Jim Lyerly and run-scoring single by Michael Herman, Roland retired the next 12 men he faced. By night’s end he had a complete-game four-hitter, nine strikeouts, a 4-0 record and a 0.60 ERA.
“I never panicked,” Roland said. “I had confidence we would score more than two runs. We just couldn’t lose our focus and let it get to us.”
Piedmont starter Teddy Shonts had problems of his own in the last of the first. A senior southpaw, he sandwiched three walks and a hit-batsman around a double play ó and was yanked with the bases loaded.
“The lefthander is our ace,” coach Milt Flow said after PHS (14-12) paraded five pitchers to the mound. “We wanted a guy who threw breaking stuff, but after him we were just going to pitch everyone we had.”
Reliever Will Gamble escaped the first by inducing an inning-ending groundout. But he was ineffective after being drilled in the left ankle by Ethan Fisher’s line drive in the second. East scored its first run on Roland’s sacrifice fly, then added three runs in the third. Two crossed on Smith’s first-pitch triple to right-center and another on Fisher’s groundout.
“They were throwing all kinds of off-speed pitches,” said Smith. “That one was a fastball so I took advantage of it.”
Hightower, for one, exhaled after the Mustangs grabbed the lead. “Zack’s hit was huge because it got us up on top,” he said. “We’re a team that’s played ahead most of the season. After that we were in pretty good shape and everyone relaxed at the plate.”
Jarrett, who went 2-for-4 and scored twice, offered more insight.
“We know teams are giving us a lot of junk pitches,” he said. “So in our offensive session at practice, we worked on hitting off-speed stuff. We know that’s what’s coming.”
By the sixth inning it hardly mattered. East sent 12 batters to the plate and used five hits, five walks, a wild pitch and a throwing error to score eight times.
“Actually, we were playing for one run,” said Hightower. “But after Justin stole and Micah beat out a drag bunt, the whole thing broke open.”
Two runs scored on the error before DH Corbin Shive and Smith knocked home runs with hits. Roland contributed a sharp RBI-single to left field and Trey Holmes lofted a sacrifice fly to make it 11-2. When Jarrett whacked a base hit into the right-center gap, the game ó and the second round of these playoffs ó was history.
“You’re always happy to win at this point,” said Jarrett. “You just keep playing for that next game.”

Contact David Shaw at dshaw@salisaburypost.com.

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