Prep Baseball: South Rowan 10, North Rowan 5
By Mike London
SPENCER — South pitcher Matt Miller eyes widened when he looked over some of North Rowan’s batting averages, but he made the high-scoring Cavaliers look human.
Miller, a junior right-hander, was in complete control for five innings on the mound and walloped a three-run homer to help himself.
“Got a really nice fastball down the middle,” said Miller, a two-way stud who now has four wins and three homers.
South won 10-5, the Raiders’ seventh straight victory in the intra-county series. The last time North beat South was a 9-2 decision in 2006 behind Keegan Linza.
“I just looked at this as a very fun game,” Miller said of the non-conference affair. “North does have some pretty good bats. It was a good challenge for me.”
Defensive struggles continue to be the biggest area of concern for the 1A Cavaliers (10-3), who had a seven-game winning streak snapped. They made eight errors, two on one wild play.
It’s possible to overcome that sort of thing against shaky teams, but not against South Rowan (8-5), a sound club that usually doesn’t beat itself and is headed for a berth in the 3A playoffs.
“I’m almost glad it happened because it’s a lesson we’ve got to learn,” North coach Aaron Rimer said. “It’s like we just walk out there and figure we can score enough runs to win. But you’re not always able to score two touchdowns. You have to play some defense.”
North did play some defense. Mason Jennings made a great diving catch in center field to rob Jacob Dietz of a hit, but not being able to make some routines buried the Cavs in a deep hole.
Eric Tyler’s groundball should’ve given North starting pitcher Matt Laurens a 1-2-3 first inning, but Tyler reached, Dietz followed with a single, and Miller rocked one into the trees for a quick 3-0 lead.
“We’ve been working with Miller on his swing, and he’s swinging it good now,” South coach Thad Chrismon said. “He really wants to be a complete player.”
North scraped an unearned run in the third to make it a 4-1 game, but mostly Miller was shoving. He fanned seven and walked none.
“Matt was Matt,” Chrismon said. “He gave us a very strong outing against a quality opponent. North’s not only a good-hitting team, it’s a very experienced team, but we had a good day. Our defense made some nice plays, and that fueled us.”
Miller also beat North in 2010. He pitched four shutout innings with six Ks in a 10-0 victory.
South took a 9-1 lead with a five-run fifth that was triggered by a solo homer by sophomore shortstop Dylan Goodman. Goodman had a strong game, contributing two hits, plus a dazzling defensive play.
“It’s the first home run I’ve hit in a while,” Goodman said. “But they were throwing good pitches, I got ahead in the count, and I got a good fastball to hit.”
North teetered on the edge of a 10-run-rule loss, but the drama escalated in the sixth when the Cavs put together a big inning against South reliever Dillon Parker.
Two walks cracked the door for a North rally. After Hunter Feezor chopped an infield single to load the bases, Laurens singled home a run. North added three more runs on Mason Jennings’ RBI groundout, a wild pitch and Dakota Brown’s run-scoring single to close the gap to 9-5.
When Wesley Barker followed with another base hit, the Cavs had two men on for .600-hitter Alex Morgan, and Matt Mauldin, who already was 2-for-2, was on deck.
Things were finally getting interesting, but that’s when Chrismon summoned relief ace Daniel Mullis from the bullpen. Mullis has quietly enjoyed a phenomenal season (two earned runs in 16 innings, 22 Ks vs. 4 walks), and he got the job done again.
Morgan hit a groundball to shortstop to end North’s hopes of a miracle and also to end Morgan’s 12-game, season-long hitting streak.
“I was able to make a good pitch down to him,” Mullis said. “That’s what I’ve been trying to do all year. I’m not looking for strikeouts. I want to keep it down and get groundballs.”
South recaptured momentum by scoring in the seventh Preston Penninger got a run home with a groundout.
Mullis struck out two in the bottom half, and South got the last out of the game on a perfect double relay from center fielder Tyler Kowalczyk to Goodman to Tyler.
“We didn’t wake up until the fifth or sixth inning, and that’s way too late,” Rimer said. “South came to play from the start.”
North has a chance to bounce back right away. It travels to Salisbury for a 3:30 p.m. game today.