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Prep Baseball: East travels to South Point tonight

By Mike London
Salisbury Post
East Rowan’s 5-4 baseball victory over Mooresville on Tuesday was straight from the Twilight Zone, but reality returned quickly for coach Brian Hightower because a father’s work is never done.
Reached for comment Wednesday on the East Rowan-South Point 3A Western championship series, Hightower wasn’t examining detailed scouting reports or flipping coins to determine his pitching rotation for the best-of-three series that begins tonight at 7 p.m. in Belmont. Instead, the Hightower family was embarking on an unplanned shopping trip.
“We’re on our way to Wal-Mart to buy a fishing rod that shoots like a gun,” Hightower explained with a sigh. “Like our son just said, ‘Daddy’s got the mon-mon.’ ”
A fishing rod that shoots like a gun sounds like a fine addition to any household, but don’t forget the instructional video.
While angling appears to be a big part of Hightower’s future, his present still involves baseball thanks to East’s miraculous five-run rally in the seventh that eliminated Mooresville at frenzied Staton Field.
Things get very interesting now for East (26-2), which has won 22 in a row. Since East’s pitching staff got healthy in April, Hightower’s had more good hurlers than he had available innings to hand then.
Cody Laws (8-0) hasn’t pitched much lately. Neither has lefty Trey Holmes, who’s never lost a high school game. Neither has Kent Basinger, who is very capable.
Now East faces a flurry of games ó four in five days, if this series extends to Saturday ó and Corbin Shive and Justin Roland, who pitched six innings Tuesday, will need help.
Shive (11-0) will definitely start tonight’s game, probably against South Point’s star lefty Zach Horne, who has signed with Belmont Abbey.
After that, Hightower will play it by ear. He expects East to face South Point sophomore Weston Lawing, who has been lights-out in the playoffs, in Friday’s Game 2 at Staton Field, but East’s starter is to be determined.
South Point (19-8) is very good, although it is also very young. Five sophomores and two freshmen were in the lineup when the Red Raiders beat favored R-S Central. The other news out of Belmont is that slugging center fielder Chris Lane was limited to the DH role Tuesday because of a bum ankle.
East has lots of history with South Point, almost all bad.
East lost 3-2 in a controversial contest at South Point in the Western championship game in 1981.
Just mention East’s 1994 loss at South Point in another Western championship game if you want to start a ruckus in your favorite sports bar. That one was stopped by rain after five innings with South Point leading 2-0. The rain eventually stopped. The game never resumed. South Point was declared the winner.
In 2001, East lost 4-3 to South Point at Staton Field in the first round.
Finally, good news for East fans. In 2000, East beat South Point 7-0 in the first round behind Brian Hatley, who is now an East assistant coach.
East’s most recent trip to Gaston County wasn’t jolly. The Mustangs lost 2-1 when they ventured to Dallas to play North Gaston in the 1998 Western championship game.
Not that the past will affect anything that happens tonight, but it is interesting and Hightower has been getting an earful of history lessons.
“I got a call today from a guy who played for East in 1981, telling me about their South Point game,” Hightower said. “Gosh, I wish we were playing those 1981 South Point guys tonight because they’d be older (40-something) now. If they’ll let us do that, we’ll even let them play the whole series at South Point.”
Hightower, who obviously still has his sense of humor intact, said his team is excited to make the school’s best run since 1998.
“The guys didn’t think they should have had to go to school Wednesday,” Hightower joked. “They figured all classes should have been canceled after the Mooresville game.”
Classes were on. So is tonight’s game. Admission is $6, and it should be worth it. While the trip down I-85 from Rowan to Belmont is only an hour in theory, Charlotte traffic issues could be a factor.

Contact Mike London at 704-797-4259 or mlondon@salisburypost.com.

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