Mustangs relax, receive news on destination
By Bret Strelow
East Rowan coach Brian Hightower scoured the Newman Park stands Monday night and spotted seniors Micah Jarrett, Justin Roland and Trey Holmes.
Hightower then located juniors Alex Litaker, Matt Miller and Corbin Shive.
East (28-3) clinched a berth in the 3A state championship series by beating South Point on Saturday, the end of a five-day, four-game stretch for the Mustangs. Several members of Hightower’s club relaxed during a second straight practice-free day by attending the Rowan County American Legion team’s home opener.
“This is what they do,” Hightower said. “Even on their off-day, they’re over here watching baseball. They’re probably wishing they were playing Legion baseball tonight and still getting ready for the state championships.”
The exact location and start times for the upcoming series with Rocky Mount (25-5) remained a mystery until Monday night.
Game 1 is scheduled to begin Friday at 5 p.m. in Zebulon, home of the Double-A Carolina Mudcats. They play at 6,500-seat Five County Stadium. Game 2 will follow Saturday at 11 a.m., and a decisive Game 3 would be contested later that day at 5 p.m.
The NCHSAA’s original plan called for championship matchups among the four classifications to take place in Zebulon and Raleigh, but the 1A series and 2A series will now be held at UNC Greensboro.
N.C. State learned Sunday it will play host to an NCAA regional, so Doak Field will be occupied Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Three former Rowan County stars ó N.C. State’s Wade Moore, Charlotte’s Ross Steedley and South Carolina’s Keegan Linza ó are on rosters of participating teams, and games are scheduled to begin at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. on the first two days of the regional.
The 4A finalists ó Greenville Rose and Ardrey Kell ó will join the Mustangs and Gryphons in Zebulon. The town is 25 miles northeast of Raleigh and 35 miles southwest of Rocky Mount.
“It’s closer for them, but I know our East Rowan fans are going to travel for us,” Hightower said. “I tip my hat to them because they’ve been great supporting us through every round of the playoffs this year. They were big-time in helping us out versus South Point in that last game.
“It’s a neutral field, and it comes down to the nine to 16 guys you put out there to play.”
One of the guys to watch is Rocky Mount junior Brian Goodwin, an athletic center fielder who has committed to North Carolina. He’s batting .482 with 41 runs scored, 23 walks and a 20-for-20 mark in stolen bases. In the playoffs, Goodwin has hit 8-for-13, drawn seven walks and scored nine runs.
Junior catcher Ben Fish, another Division I prospect, leads the Gryphons with five home runs and 37 RBIs. He’s batting .415.
East Rowan has a pair of Division I signees in Roland and Jarrett. They have combined for 67 runs, 59 RBIs, 40 steals and nine homers.
Holmes has a .398 average to go along with 28 RBIs, and Ben DeCelle leads the team with a .414 average. He has stolen 11 bases.
“They’re very similar to the type of team we are,” Hightower said. “I think it’s going to be a very competitive series.”
Contact Bret Strelow at 704-797-4258 or firstname.lastname@example.org.