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Prep Baseball: East Rowan 8, Carson 1

By Mike London
mlondon@salisburypost.com
GRANITE QUARRY — Daylight saving time is just around the corner, and East Rowan’s baseball team sprang forward while Carson fell back.
East (3-1, 2-0) rolled 8-1 on Friday at frigid Staton Field and stayed perfect in the NPC this season — and lifetime against the Cougars. The Mustangs have won all 12 matchups with their neighbors since Carson opened.
“The storyline was East expects to win, and we gave them extra outs,” Carson coach Chris Cauble said. “Give them those extra outs, and they make you pay.”
Carson catcher Joseph Basinger missed the game with illness, and the Mustangs definitely noticed. Andy Austin stole four bases.
Carson’s struggles with situational hitting were pivotal. The Cougars fanned 12 times and left eight men on base in the first three innings.
The key half-inning was the top of the first. East pitcher Alex Bost, who struggled with his control in a recent loss at Northwest Cabarrus, walked Kyle Youngo and Kyle Bridges to open the game.
“Cold nights, very cold hands, and I’m having trouble getting loose,” explained Bost, who struck out eight. “I thought I was good coming out of the pen, but I wasn’t.”
After Gunnar Hogan and Mitch Galloway followed the two walks with solid singles — Hogan smacked a bullet on an 0-2 pitch — Carson (2-3, 1-1) had one run in and still had the bases loaded with none out.
But Bost struck out the next three hitters. Carson settled for just one run, and it was the Mustangs’ turn to hit.
“Three straight strikeouts,” Cauble said. “You’re just not a very good team if you can’t put it in play.”
East senior catcher Luke Thomas was the guy who helped Bost get on track.
“I went out and reminded Alex that everyone on this team believes in him,” Thomas said. “He had better control of his curveball than his fastball early, so I called for a lot of them. He could get ahead with his curve, and he settled into the game.”
In its half of the first, the Mustangs put three on the board against Carson starter Ethan Free. Two walks set the table for a run-scoring single by Austin, who is red-hot.
Nathan Fulbright got the second run home by whacking a ball toward Hogan. Carson’s fine shortstop couldn’t make the play on a tough hop.
Avery Rogers’ groundball could’ve been the inning-ending double play Free needed, but Carson settled for a force play after a brief bobble, and the third run scored.
Carson’s second brought more missed opportunities— three walks and an infield hit, but no runs, largely due to a baserunning mistake. When a runner turned third base too eagerly, Austin, East’s first baseman, fired a strike across the diamond to Avery Rogers to erase him.
“Who else but Andy makes that play?” East coach Brian Hightower said. “And Avery was there.”
The bottom of the second ended the suspense. East scored four for a 7-1 lead, with Justin Morris and Thomas lining sac flies and Ashton Fleming delivering a two-run single. Carson had a chance to limit the damage, but it couldn’t get an out when it had Wesley LeRoy trapped between second and third after Morris bunted through a pitch.
Bost, who had to sit for a long time while East batted in the first and second innings, found a groove in the third and wound up mowing down the last seven hitters he faced.
“Alex got his breaking ball down and located his fastball,” Hightower said. “We’ll just have to make an adjustment on the time we give him in the pen to get ready.”
Reliever Gavin Peeler, who fanned five, was the bright spot for Carson. East got only one run off him — on Thomas’ second sac fly of the night.
“Behind in the count, I tried to stay late and trust my hands, and I drove it to the opposite field,” Thomas said.
East reliever Will Johnson dominated late. He pitched the sixth and seventh innings and breezed through six hitters.
“I think even if Carson had scored four in the first, we’d have come right back at ’em with five,” said Hightower, who was even more fired up than usual. “We ran the bases better than they did. We put balls in play in situations where they were striking out.”

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