Prep Baseball: East Rowan 8, Lake Norman 0
By Mike London
GRANITE QUARRY ó The NPC voted not to hold a conference tournament, but it’s conducting one in the 3A state playoffs, anyway.
Behind right-hander Corbin Shive, East Rowan handled NPC rival Lake Norman 8-0 at cold, wet Staton Field in a third-round game on Friday.
Next for East on Tuesday at Staton is another NPC foe ó Mooresville. The Blue Devils knocked off Kernersville Glenn 7-4 on the road.
East (25-2) will take it. The Mustangs, who have won 21 in a row, would have traveled to Glenn because of NCHSAA conference seeding priority.
“This isn’t a conference tournament, but it sure feels like one,” East coach Brian Hightower said. “Our 3-4 teams got left out, but 5 played 2 when West Rowan was at Mooresville. Then tonight we had the 1-6 matchup with Lake Norman. Now 1 and 2 will play for the conference championship on Tuesday.”
And for a berth in the state semifinals.
NPC teams are 10-4 in the playoffs, with six road wins.
“That says a lot about this conference,” Lake Norman coach Robert Little said. “When an NPC team gets beat, it’s usually another NPC team that has to knock them out.”
East didn’t exactly knock out Lake Norman lefty Nick Lomascolo, who has fanned 114 batters this year, but it bled him to death with tiny cuts in a four-run second inning that proved decisive.
East shortstop Justin Roland smacked Lomascolo’s first pitch of the night into the left-center gap for two bases. It was a tone-setting double.
“I was a little worried about this game, trying to beat a good team for the third time, so that was an important at-bat leading off,” Roland said. “Lomascolo is good enough that I knew if they scored just one run they might beat us. Fortunately, he didn’t have all of his command tonight.”
Lake Norman had a chance to score first in the second when Nick Keith and Donnie Burt rapped one-out singles to put runners at the corners, but Keith didn’t challenge Ben DeCelle’s arm on a flyball to medium left field and catcher Austin Shull threw out Burt trying to steal second.
“That inning was huge,” Hightower said. “If they score there ó who knows ó but Corbin really bears down with men on base. He pitched a great game on a night when it was tough to pitch. It was colder than it’s been in a while and the ball was slick.”
The game started shortly after 8 p.m., an hour late, after East coaches worked feverishly to get the field ready.
“We really got hit hard by the rain, and about 6:45, I’m asking myself what the heck are we doing,” Hightower said. “But I really didn’t want to postpone and give people a chance to scout us.”
Anyone scouting East would have seen the Mustangs get four runs in the second without battering any baseballs. Shive got an infield hit, Noah Holmes was hit by a pitch, and Ethan Fisher walked to load the bases. A ball skipped past catcher Eric Manser to get the first run home. DeCelle was next. The squeeze was on, and DeCelle did a nice job fouling off a pitchout. Then he slapped a two-run single.
“On the squeeze, I think everyone knew it was coming,” DeCelle said. “Then with two strikes on me, I was just trying to punch it somewhere and found a hole.”
Trey Holmes’ sac fly made it a four-run inning.
Lomascolo exited in the third as East boosted its lead to 6-0 on Fisher’s run-scoring single and a balk.
“We were patient at the plate and didn’t chase pitches,” DeCelle said. “Lomascolo has a great curveball. If he could’ve located it better, it would have been tough for us.”
Shive worked out of a jam in the fifth, Shull powered a two-run homer to left in the sixth, and Cody Laws pitched a scoreless seventh. Just another day at the NPC office for the Mustangs, who went 18-0 in the league’s regular season.
“We hit some balls hard at ’em, but the biggest thing was you can’t afford to give East baserunners by walking them,” Little said. “That team will get the big hits. The ball (DeCelle) hit down the left-field line was a big hit, and so was that ball (Fisher) hit up the middle.”
Contact Mike London at 704-797-4259 or firstname.lastname@example.org.