Prep Baseball Playoffs: East Rowan 17, South Point 2
By Mike London
GRANITE QUARRY ó East Rowan coach Brian Hightower jokingly lists right-hander Cody Laws on his roster as a pitcher/comedian, but the Mustangs weren’t in a position to clown around after a painful defeat.
Hightower and Laws had a rare heart-to-heart discussion after a 1-0 loss at South Point on Thursday ó a no-hitter that was East’s first setback since March 12 at North Davidson.
“Coach asked me if I thought I could handle them,” Laws said. “I told him I could.”
Laws handled South Point on Friday at bursting-at-the-seams Staton Field. East romped 17-2 in five innings to square the best-of-three 3A Western championship series at one game apiece. The decisive contest will be played tonight at 7 p.m. in Belmont.
Everything East hit found a hole, and Laws didn’t let South Point (20-9) get a hit until the fourth inning. By then, he held a comfortable 13-0 lead.
The affable Laws kept a poker face on the mound, but he could barely contain his joy after the lopsided victory.
“I saw that crowd, and I knew this was the biggest game of my life,” Laws said. “I had these really big butterflies, but I was hitting my spots, I relied on my curveball a lot and we were making the plays in the field like we always do.”
Laws got extra help from Zach Smith, who belted a grand slam and a triple, and second baseman Ethan Fisher, who made a good play for the first out of the third and a diving play to end the frame that had fans roaring.
East (27-3) registered 13 hits and took advantage of five errors, but it was Laws’ night.
Laws carried East’s staff the first month of the season when Corbin Shive (shoulder), Trey Holmes (elbow) and Kent Basinger (knee) were hurting but has been out of the headlines lately with Shive and Justin Roland throwing so well.
Laws last started on April 16.
“I really haven’t pitched a lot,” he said. “But for the team to count on me in a make-it-or-break-it game was a really good feeling.”
Roland, who worked six innings Tuesday in the quarterfinal miracle against Mooresville, will start tonight on the mound. He’ll probably be countered by South Point’s No. 2 pitcher, Weston Lawing, who also threw Tuesday.
Hightower said he had confidence Laws would extend East’s season.
“Why Laws? Mostly because he was 8-0 with an ERA of 1-something,” Hightower said with a smile. “Besides that, Cody is the king of being crazy, and even with everything on the line, he wasn’t going to be too nervous about it.”
Butterflies may have been bouncing in Laws’ belly in the top of the first, but East’s five-run bottom half of the inning essentially decided the game.
Roland got an infield hit, stole second and scored on Micah Jarrett’s single. After Holmes singled on a hit-and-run, Jarrett beat the throw home on Shive’s infield bouncer to make it 2-0. Fisher’s bloop single led to two chaotic errors and a 4-0 lead. Austin Shull’s hit made it 5-0.
“That first run was just so big,” Roland said. “That loosened up everyone.”
East’s fast start was the end for the visiting Red Raiders.
“Scoring early, from a mental aspect, was huge,” Hightower said. “We just needed to relax a little at the plate. There was no reason to lose faith.”
East tacked on three runs in the second, five in the third and four more on Smith’s slam.
“I got a pitch to hammer and capitalized on it,” Smith said. “Last night we just didn’t do the job at the plate. Tonight was a whole different story.”
Twenty-four hours after getting zero hits, East put up 17 runs, but it can’t save any of them for Game 3.
“East found the holes early, we played poorly and things snowballed, but that’s just how baseball is,” South Point coach Jason Lineberger said. “One loss is one loss, and it doesn’t matter by how much. We put a young pitcher (Chris Harkey) in a very tough spot in this atmosphere, but it’ll be 0-0 tomorrow, and I feel like we’ll play with confidence.”
Contact Mike London at 704-797-4259 or email@example.com.
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