Prep Baseball: East Rowan 10, West Rowan 0
By David Shaw
GRANITE QUARRY — It took an inning or so for the lights to come on for East Rowan’s Bradley Robbins on Friday. Once they did it was lights out for West Rowan.
The junior righthander needed to clear his mind before mowing down the Falcons in an abbreviated 10-0 NPC win over the visiting Falcons.
“I’ve had a bad day,” said Robbins, who attended the funeral of a family friend earlier in the day. “I had to come out and win the game for her.”
Robbins had a much better evening. He pitched a complete-game one-hitter as East (13-4, 9-1) strengthened its grip on first place. Braiding a crisp fastball with a mesmerizing changeup and a take-a-seat slider, he faced only 16 batters, threw 70 pitches, improved to 6-0 and lowered his ERA to 0.98. And just for good measure, he picked off one of West’s three baserunners.
“That might be the best game Bradley’s had all season,” said interim ER coach Brian Hatley, who took the reins while head coach Brian Hightower sat out the second of a two-game suspension. “He had a lot of stuff going on today but was able to put it all behind him. Once he got past the first inning — when he was nervous and jacked up because it was West Rowan — he settled down and got command of his pitches. I think it helped him coming out here and being around all of his teammates and friends.”
Robbins was aided and abetted by East’s perfect defense. With a runner on second and one out in the top of the first inning, Nathan Fulbright scaled a hill in deep left field and hauled in Madison Osborne’s rocket. In the second Robbins initiated an inning-ending 1-6-3 double play that erased Chanler Jones, who delivered West’s only hit. Then in the third East center-fielder Will Sapp made a sprawling, Ringling Brothers catch to rob Justin Evans of an extra-base hit.
“Fulbright made a nice read on his catch,” Robbins said. “And Sapp, he just catches everything hit his way.”
Hatley, ER’s esteemed pitching coach, tossed Sapp a verbal bouquet. “That kid goes and gets the ball as well as any center-fielder we’ve ever had,” he gushed.
Meanwhile, the Mustangs were busy plating seven unearned runs against hard-luck losing pitcher Matt Miller (1-5) and reliever Steven Wetmore. It was a 1-0 game in the last of the third when Miller ran into double trouble, yielding Ashton Fleming’s two-out, two-run double off the right-field fence. Two batters later Jared Mathis, East’s No. 8 hitter, crunched a two-bagger to left-center that eluded outfielder Patrick Hampton and provided a 5-0 lead.
“You’ve got to make routine plays,” losing coach Chad Parker said after West (3-15, 2-8) lost for the fourth time in its last five games. “What else can you say? We should have been out of that inning.”
Justin Morris steered an RBI-double down the left-field line in the sixth to chase Miller. Wetmore relieved and allowed Andy Austin’s run-scoring hit before a second West error led to three more unearned runs — the last two when Mathis tripled over the head of left-fielder Ethan Wansley’s head. “I was surprised,” Mathis said after his four-RBI game. “It looked pretty routine to me.”
“(Wansley) said he didn’t see it,” Parker explained.
The rest was up to Robbins, who retired nine of the last 10 West batters. The victory made Hatley 3-0 as a fill-in head coach.
“I’ll be glad to get Hightower back,” he said. “He does a good job. All I’m doing is trying not to screw up. Tonight everybody made plays and did their jobs.”