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3A title series: East’s Roland comes through

By David Shaw
Salisbury Post
ZEBULON ó The way Justin Roland saw it, there was no longer a big picture for East Rowan.
There was only Saturday ó and a must-win morning game against Rocky Mount.
“Every time we’re in one of these desperation games, we tell ourselves, ‘Just find a way to win,’ ” the senior right-hander said after pitching seven gut-check innings in a series-tying 6-2 win. “Just win, any way you can.”
Roland was tougher than an overdone t-bone, braiding an assortment of off-speed deliveries with an occasional low-80s fastball in a sturdy, complete-game effort. He yielded five singles and a couple of doubles, pitching with grand goals and accomplishing them in small ways.
“He was the right guy for the job,” said East catcher Austin Shull. “We all had confidence in him. How can you not be confident with a guy like him?”
Roland set the tone before he threw the first of his 101 pitches. As East’s leadoff hitter, he whipped losing pitcher Chris Berry’s third offering for a double down the left-field line and took third on an infield error. Two batters later he scored the game’s first run on Micah Jarrett’s two-base hit.
“It was important to take the lead, but after what happened (in Friday’s Game 1 loss), I didn’t think it would be,” Roland said. “We did the same thing yesterday and it didn’t matter because they came back. This time we weren’t gonna sit on that.”
Roland saved his best for last. After Rocky Mount put two runners on base with two out in the last of the seventh inning, he went eyeball-to-eyeball with Brian Goodwin ó Rocky Mount’s scariest hitter (.477) ó and refused to blink. As the drama built and the count stretched to 3-and-2, Shull called for an inside curveball to the left-handed batter.
“We weren’t gonna throw him a fastball,” Shull reported. “We knew it had to be offspeed and to be effective, we had to bust something inside.”
Roland obliged by bending a low curve that caught the inside corner of the plate and buckled Goodwin’s knees ó a called third strike that ended the game.
“That’s just Roland, a perfect example of what a competitor he is,” said ER pitching coach Brian Hatley. “He throws his own stuff. And whether it’s a scrimmage or a state championship game, he always gives you full effort.”
Especially when nothing less would have worked.

Contact David Shaw at dshaw@salisburypost.com.

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