Friday playoff roundup
By Mike London
GRANITE QUARRY ó Defending 3A champion East Rowan opens the playoffs tonight at home against a Rockingham County team that is still mostly a mystery to East coach Brian Hightower. If youíve got a scouting report, give him a call.
ěI donít know anything at all except theyíre 12-13, and theyíve given up more runs than theyíve scored,î Hightower said.
Hightower knows more about his own bunch. East (18-7) is ranked seventh in 3A, although the Mustangs have experienced more ups and downs than usual on their way to NPC regular season and tournament championships.
The playoffs are what matter most, though. The playoffs are what people remember, and East is capable of another long run.
ěI really like where our guys are right now,î Hightower said. ěItís a loose bunch, a very relaxed bunch, but I think they all want to do something great in the playoffs just as much as I do. I think theyíll bring more focus to the playoffs than what weíve seen at times in the regular season.î
Hightowerís horse Bradley Robbins (9-0, 1.19 ERA, 76 strikeouts) will pitch tonight.
ěIím always going to pitch my best pitcher in the first round,î Hightower said. ěIf everything goes well for us Friday, then that gives us Justin Morris, Will Johnson and maybe Bradley for an inning in the second round.î
Robbins only struck out one in his most recent outing ó the NPC tournament championship game against West Iredell, but Hightower wasnít concerned about that.
ěWest Iredell doesnít strike out much against anybody,î he said. ěThey swing at a lot of first pitches, and they make a lot of contact.î
The return to health of Wesley LeRoy helps the Mustangs. Heís a fine right fielder and gives the Mustangs another guy who can run.
Outstanding season: Catcher Luke Thomas, headed to Wingate, is batting .423 with 27 RBIs.
Unsung hero: While heís had to overcome a really slow start, center fielder Will Sapp has scored a team-high 34 runs and has his batting average up to .345. His defense has been unbelievable all along.
South Rowan at Charlotte Catholic (3A)
This gameís being played at Jack Hughes Memorial Park in Pineville.
South won a first-round road shocker last season when it prevailed 7-5 at Weddington and would like a repeat performance.
Catholic eliminated Carson in a second-rounder last season, and the winner of this game gets to play the Carson-Mount Pleasant winner.
Outstanding season: Two-way player Matt Miller is one of the countyís top juniors. Heís 4-3 on the mound with four homers and 21 runs and is the likely starting pitcher tonight.
Unsung hero: No. 2 hurler Preston Penninger leads the Raiders with 19 RBIs in only 59 at-bats.
Chatham Central at North Rowan (1A)
North Rowan has already battered Chatham Central 13-6 and 12-2 in YVC regular season games, but the leagueís seventh-place team made the playoffs as a wild card.
North appears to be the only 1A team to have registered 20 wins so far this season and is ranked fourth in 1A. The Cavaliers are batting .376 as a team.
Outstanding season: Left fielder Matt Mauldin is batting an eye-popping .551 with 38 RBIs.
Unsung hero: Wes Barker has scored a county-leading 43 runs.
Piedmont at Salisbury (2A)
Salisbury earned a home game by winning the CCC tournament.
Piedmont, from the Monroe area, is a No. 3 seed but it was No. 3 in the Rocky River Conference, arguably the stateís best 2A league.
Cuthbertson, ranked No. 1 in 2A, and West Stanly, ranked fourth, are also representing the Rocky River in the playoffs.
Brad Elwood, headed to join the Charlotte 49ers, is a player to watch for coach Milt Flowís Panthers.
Outstanding season: SHS senior Philip Tonseth is batting .436 with three homers and 33 RBIs and is 5-3 on the mound.
Unsung hero: Left fielder Scott Van der Poel is batting a team-best .446.
Butler at Davie (4A)
Ranked sixth in 4A, Davie may still be underrated.
The War Eagles are batting .359 as a team with 24 homers, and the pitching is really deep.
Outstanding seasons: Just to name a few: shortstop Carson Herndon (.470, 30 RBIs), first baseman Corey Randall (eight homers, .429), center fielder Alex Newman (.393, 18 steals) and hurler Ryan Foster (8-1, 1.20 ERA).
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