Prep Baseball: Lake Norman 6, East Rowan 2
By Mike London
GRANITE QUARRY ó Lake Norman coach Robert Little has pushed back a gall bladder operation the past few weeks, but he still got to watch a surgeon go to work at Staton Field.
Instead of a scalpel, Lake Norman’s cerebral lefty Nick Lomascolo usually employs a slick curveball-changeup-fastball combination to cut up opposing hitters.
In Friday’s matchup of NPC co-leaders, however, Lomascolo went with fastballs 90 percent of the time. His velocity wasn’t scary in a 6-2 victory over East Rowan, but his location was so precise he fanned 13 Mustangs in five innings.
“We definitely took too many fastballs for strikes,” said East right fielder David Ijames, who had two of East’s three hits. “Fastballs we’ll normally hit hard, we took.”
Generous corners were offered by the man in blue, and Lomascolo was smart enough ó and good enough ó to take advantage.
“I’ve about run out of things to say about that boy,” Little said. “He was superb. Catawba’s getting a steal.”
Lomascolo and Ross Whitley, a right-hander who followed him to the mound and fanned four more Mustangs, both signed with Catawba coach Jim Gantt last fall.
East (7-2, 5-1) lost to an NPC foe for the first time since it returned to the 3A ranks prior to the 2008 season. Counting playoff victories against Lake Norman and Mooresville last spring, the Mustangs were 25-0 against NPC teams in 2008 and 2009 before the Wildcats (9-1, 6-0) jumped them Friday night for six runs in the third inning.
“This (Staton Field) is where out season ended last year, and that’s been motivation to work,” Little said. “It’s a nice win, but all it means is we’re out of the gate fast. We’re running a marathon, not a sprint.”
East starting pitcher Cody Laws was dominant early, and the Mustangs nicked Lomascolo for two runs in the first. Ben DeCelle walked, Zach Smith was hit by a pitch and they pulled off a double steal as Noah Holmes struck out on a 3-2 pitch.
Ijames then rifled a changeup through the left side for two RBIs. That would be the only hit off Lomascolo.
“At the beginning, I couldn’t get used to the high mound here,” Lomascolo said. “Then the changeup I threw Ijames wasn’t such a bad pitch. Just a good piece of hitting by him.”
Lake Norman had gone six-up, six-down against Laws when all heck broke loose in the third. Donnie Burt mashed a homer to start the inning, and the next three batters singled. It was 2-2 when Eric Manser ripped the two-run single that put the Cats in front to stay.
“I just got too confident,” Laws said. “The first two innings went so perfect I got too much adrenaline going. Then I went out there for the third inning, lost focus and missed spots.”
East coach Brian Hightower described Lake Norman’s six-run frame as “brutal,” and it would have been worse had catcher Austin Shull not thrown out a runner at third.
With relief pitcher Preston Troutman putting up zeroes, East had chances to get back into it, but Lomascolo struck out Holmes on three fastballs to end the fifth with two on.
A rare East baserunning mistake helped Whitley dodge big trouble in the sixth.
“Great job by Lake Norman to hit the ball 1 through 9 tonight and their pitching was top-notch,” East coach Brian Hightower said. “Got to tip your cap to them, but at the same time it’s a long season and we’re not going to panic over one loss. We’ve just to start hitting the ball better.”