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Prep Baseball: East Rowan 3, Carson 1

By Mike London
mlondon@salisburypost.com
CHINA GROVE — East Rowan’s first two-game losing streak in since 2007 is history.
The Mustangs rode Bradley Robbins’ right arm to a 3-1 victory at Carson on Wednesday to stay alone in first place in the NPC.
The Cougars are 0-13 lifetime against East. Some of those losses — such as the “lodged ball” lunacy in the 2007 Cliff Peeler Classic — have been out of the ordinary.
The latest setback in the series for the Cougars (7-6, 4-3) wasn’t exactly normal. With East trailing 1-0 in the third and Carson pitcher Josh Martin looking like Greg Maddux, Hunter Brooks blasted a game-turning, two-run homer.
If you’ve never heard of Brooks, don’t feel left out. He also hit a three-run dinger in Wednesday’s jayvee game. His homer against Martin came in his first varsity at-bat.
“Their pitcher was throwing strikes, and I was looking for a fastball and got one high and inside,” Brooks said. “I wasn’t nervous because Coach (Brian) Hightower told me on Tuesday, I’d probably play. I was focused.”
East (10-4, 6-1) didn’t have shortstop Justin Morris available. That set off a chain reaction of moves that opened up the DH spot for Brooks. He batted ninth.
“It’s a move that (assistant coach Brian) Hatley and I decided to make at the Waffle House,” Hightower explained. “It’s a move we had to make. Now Brooks is an option for us.”
Martin pitched an awesome game, but one mistake to Brooks proved fatal.
“I got that pitch a little bit too far inside, and he hit it good,” Martin said. “I tried to pitch my butt off and our defense played real solid. It was a tough one to lose.”
Carson (7-6, 4-3) had a chance to do serious damage early, as Robbins (4-0) didn’t initially have the devastating stuff he’s had lately.
“This was by far the worst I’ve been in my last four starts,” Robbins said. “I couldn’t trust my fastball.”
In the Carson first, Kyle Youngo and Kyle Bridges rapped singles. When Gunnar Hogan ripped a single to left, the Cougars had a 1-0 lead and two on with none out, but one is all they got.
“That was the difference right there in this game and games we’ve lost,” Hightower. “Bradley was in trouble, but he limited them to one run. Our pitchers have been getting into jams, and then letting teams put crooked numbers on the scoreboard.”
Carson had another opportunity in the second but failed to score despite a walk, an error, a single and a wild pitch. East catcher Luke Thomas cut down a base-stealer, and Robbins struck out Hogan with runners at second and third.
Carson got its leadoff man on base in the third, but Avery Rogers promptly started a 6-4-3 double play, and Robbins started rolling.
“Bradley was tough,” Martin said. “Even when his pitches were down the middle, he kept them down.”
East pushed across a vital insurance run in the sixth. Martin just missed a circus catch on a bloop off the bat of Will Sapp, and Ashton Fleming walked to put two on with none out.
Thomas, East’s No. 3 hitter, was next. Any other Mustang would’ve gotten the bunt sign, but Thomas is a line-drive machine.
“Coach asked me if wanted to swing or bunt,” Thomas said. “I said, ‘You’re the coach.’ He told me I could hit if I would knock the crap out of it.’ ”
Thomas hammered a sharp single that set up a sac fly by Nathan Fulbright
Robbins made it through six. Hightower didn’t. He was tossed after arguing a call at first base. But Will Johnson pitched a 1-2-3 seventh, and the Mustangs had frustrated Carson again.
“It was a very well-played ballgame,” Carson coach Chris Cauble said. “I can’t say enough about Martin. He mixed it up well and threw some fastballs by them. I was going to pitch someone else, but Martin wanted the ball. When a kid wants the ball against East Rowan, you give it to him.”

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