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Peeler Easter Baseball Classic Semifinal: East Rowan 7, Carson 3

By David Shaw
dshaw@salisburypost.com
East Rowan’s thank-you note to Carson is probably already in the mail.
The Mustangs received an early Easter gift Saturday night, one that propelled them to a 7-3 semifinal victory over the Cougars and into Monday’s Cliff Peeler championship game.
“We expected this, especially from a scrappy team like Carson,” infielder Corbin Shive said after East scored four seventh-inning runs and earned a final-round berth opposite South Rowan. “We knew it would be a dogfight right from the beginning, so we had to come up with something.”
Turns out it was fly ball that Carson center-fielder Zack Grkman couldn’t come up with that opened the door for East (11-2). With one out and no one on in the top of the seventh inning, the sure-handed junior let a lazy popup by speedy Robbie Ijames’ slip out of his glove for a two-base error.
“It was just a fluke play,” said Carson coach Chris Cauble. “He normally makes that one. I’d already written F-8 on my little card that I keep because he was camped out underneath it. And that kind of got it snowballin’ back the other way.”
The misplay even caught winning coach Brian Hightower by surprise.
“Grkman’s a great kid and a great player,” he said. “He got three hits and scored the tying run. You never want to look at just one play, but he’ll probably never drop another fly ball.”
East took advantage when pinch-hitter Luke Thomas bunny-hopped a two-run single through a drawn-in infield and into right field, snapping a 3-3 tie. Batting for catcher Austin Shull, Thomas ó recently promoted from the junior varsity squad ó ended Carson starter Will Misenheimer’s night.
“That was a tough situation,” said Hightower. “But he can flat-out hit. That’s why he was up there.”
Before the inning was over, East teammate Zack Smith grounded a two-run single to left against reliever Weston Snow ó Carson’s fourth pitcher of the game.
“I was just looking for a fastball and jumped on the first pitch,” said Smith after collecting two of East’s eight hits. “It just found a hole.”
Misenheimer (2-1), the submarine-throwing right-hander, fell behind 3-0 in the top of the second when East’s Noah Holmed sliced an RBI double to left-center and Robbie Ijames followed with a soft-serve, two-run single to right. Normally a ground-ball pitcher, Misenheimer finished with six strikeouts and five groundouts in 61/3 innings.
“We figured we’d use him for two or three innings every game as a closer,” Cauble said after Carson (10-2) had its six-game winning streak curbed. “But he’s been too valuable as a starter. The arm slot Will throws from doesn’t really hurt his arm. He’s been pretty reliable.”
Carson inched back into the game with single runs in the third and fourth innings against ER starter Alex Litaker. Then in the sixth Grkman singled and scored the tying run on a two-out, flare single by Tyler Freeze.
Winning pitcher Kent Basinger ó the county’s first four-game winner ó worked out of trouble in the sixth, thanks to left-fielder Ben Decelle’s inning-ending shoestring catch with the bases loaded and recorded a perfect seventh, ending Carson’s dream of reaching the championship.
“I don’t feel like one play beat us,” Cauble said. “We had baserunners galore but couldn’t get the key hits. We just got beat by a good ballteam.”

NOTES: Carson stranded 12 runners ó including three in the second, fourth and sixth innings. … The Cougars face Davie County in Monday’s consolation game. … East junior Parker Gobbel (1-0, 3.23 ERA) will make his first start of the season in the championship game.

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