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Prep Softball: East Rowan falls

By Mike London
Salisbury Post
ASHEBORO ó Rivers of tears usually follow season-ending ballgames, but the yell of “Mustangs!” from East Rowan’s postgame circle in right field was loud as thunder and eyes stayed dry as fans applauded the team for the last time in 2008.
East lost a softball game on Wednesday when it fell 3-1 at Southwestern Randolph in the third round of the 3A playoffs, but it didn’t lose any seniors. The feeling in the dugout was this year’s NPC title, the school’s first crown in a decade, was just the first step toward something bigger.
“For a team with no seniors we did good, really good,” said East pitcher Chelsea White, one of four freshman starters.
White struck out 10 batters, but SWR’s Anna Maness was even better and fanned 12. Maness led SWR to a state title last season, and the Cougars, who will battle St. Stephens on Friday for a spot in the Final Four, could repeat.
SWR (22-2-1) got a good test from East but handled it well.
“East had us back on our heels some, and young or not, that’s a real good team,” SWR coach Steve Taylor said. “If we hadn’t come to play, this would have been it for us. East’s pitcher kept us off-guard and off-balance. She was the best we’ve faced all season.”
The game actually began on Tuesday, and East (19-4) scratched a first-inning run before torrential rain swamped the field.
“We were really ready to play Tuesday,” White said. “After we got the lead, we had momentum.”
Momentum evaporated with the 24-hour delay and a second bus ride to Asheboro. Maness, a dominating power pitcher, was in control after play resumed.
“It would’ve been interesting to see what would have happened if the rain had held off Tuesday,” East coach Mike Waddell said. “Southwestern may have settled back down, but maybe not.”
Taylor started working on the field Wednesday at 6 a.m. He and helpers removed 300 gallons of water a bucket at a time,
The Cougars made his sweat pay off by scoring two quick runs in the bottom of the first before White got settled in. After taking a close 2-2 pitch that White wanted, leadoff hitter Cynthia Hayes drew a walk to end a marathon at-bat. She swiped second, and the Cougars had two runners on after Stacy McCaskill beat out an infield roller. Maness lined a single just out of East third baseman Kelsea Kluttz’s reach for a 1-1 tie, and the go-ahead run scored when a high pitch glanced off catcher Kayla Potts’ mitt.
White put up four straight zeroes after the first, but East couldn’t generate any offense.
East had a chance in the third when Kayla Kirk beat out a tapper, stole second and advanced to third on Taylor Arey’s single to shallow right, but Maness got Haley Barrier to swing through a 2-2 pitch to end the inning.
East briefly turned momentum in the fifth when shortstop Ericka Nesbitt snagged a liner and doubled a runner off first.
Nesbitt singled leading off the sixth, and Barrier nearly had an infield hit on a ball she rapped hard back to the circle. East would have had runners at first and third with one out, but Barrier was called out on a close play.
SWR got an insurance run on three singles in the sixth, including an infield popup that fell just over White’s head and just in front of second baseman Mallory Drew.
Maness set East down 1-2-3 in the seventh, and it was time to start thinking about the future.
“I told them to let this be their fire for next year,” Waddell said. “As a whole, we’ve got to be very proud of what we accomplished and we’re tickled with how our freshmen produced. Bigger and brighter things could be ahead.”

NOTES: Waddell was assisted by Lonnie Barrier, who called pitches, and Sandy Basinger. … East’s last three seasons competing in the 3A playoffs have been ended on SWR’s field. … East is 85-30 over the last five seasons, counting its two years in 4A.

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

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