Prep Baseball: East Rowan 12, South Rowan 1
By Mike London
GRANITE QUARRY ó East Rowan’s Alex Litaker glanced into the South Rowan dugout, searching for Maverick Miles.
“Maverick’s the leading hitter in the county,” Litaker said. “We were all wondering where he was.”
Miles, a junior who is batting .477, missed Monday’s game with an infected and swollen knee. Test results aren’t conclusive, but it wasn’t hard to conclude South could’ve used him on a lopsided night at Staton Field.
East breezed past South 12-1 in five innings, and it was as easy as it sounds. The Mustangs don’t have anyone batting .477, but coach Brian Hightower put a lineup on the field that included eight .300-hitters.
East made 14 outs and had 14 hits. Center fielder Zach Smith, one of the guys celebrating Senior Night, had two homers, a double and five RBIs. He missed a three-homer night by a foot or so.
“They’re good,” said South lefty Blake Houston, who made a rare start. “I left some pitches up, and they got hit. They also hit some pretty good pitches. Smith hit one out to right field with just his hands. Then he golfs one out to center.”
East (20-4, 15-3) clinched second place in the NPC. The Mustangs have won at least 20 four straight years and have finished second, second, first and second under Hightower during that span. Hightower logged his 100th win at East on Friday. It didn’t take long to secure No. 101.
Hightower used Preston Troutman, Litaker and Parker Gobbel on the mound. They combined on a two-hitter. Troutman struck out six in his two innings before Litaker, one of the seniors took over. Litaker was credited with the win.
“It was a nice way to end things off,” Litaker said. “We’re starting to hit the ball and play defense like we’re capable.”
Hightower, who guided East to a 29-5 mark and 3A runner-up honors in 2008, likes the way things have gone since a quiet 7-0 loss at Mooresville. East has won its last four.
“I like our lineup ó those 3-4-5 guys (Smith, David Ijames and Corbin Shive) have been good all year,” Hightower said. “The last two weeks we’ve played like we had a purpose, and I do like the way we’re playing now. We were able to win this game and set up for the playoffs. Some guys needing innings got innings. Guys that needed at-bats got at-bats.”
South (7-16, 2-15) scored in the first when catcher Preston Penninger, who had both Raider hits, knocked in Houston with a two-out single. Smith’s opposite-field homer tied it in the bottom half.
“It was all arms, didn’t think I got enough of it,” Smith said. “But sometimes you just have a good night.”
Smith’s had a few. The homers were his sixth and seventh this season and he tied West’s Hernan Bautista for the county lead in RBIs with 29. In three varsity years, Smith’s put up 40 extra-base hits and 75 RBIs.
Casey Little singled home Matt Miller for a 2-1 lead in the second.
Then East broke it open with a four-run third that included a flurry of singles and a two-run throwing error on an attempted 5-2-3 double play. South got the forceout at home, but Penninger’s throw to first went into right field.
Smith’s double highlighted East’s three-run fourth. His three-run homer in the fifth brought on the 10-run rule.
“We let some innings last longer than they should have and they made us pay,” South coach Thad Chrismon said. “East hit it well, pitched it good. They’ll represent the league well in the playoffs.”
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