Prep baseball playoffs: Round 2 tonight
By Mike London
It’s conceivable that North Rowan’s baseball team can make it all the way to the 1A West regional series without ever having to leave the friendly confines of the Yadkin Valley Conference.
North (21-6) feasted on YVC wild card Chatham Central for the third time this season in Friday’s first playoff round. North has scored 44 runs in three contests with Chatham Central.
The Cavaliers, led by first-year coach Aaron Rimer, entertain YVC No. 5 seed East Montgomery for the third time tonight.
It’s possible the Cavaliers also could meet North Moore, the YVC’s No. 4 seed, in the third round, and either YVC No. 3 seed South Stanly or YVC No. 2 Albemarle in Round 4.
The Cavaliers wouldn’t be opposed to a steady diet of conference foes because as long as they are facing YVC opposition, that means they get to play in Spencer.
The YVC has a lousy seeding priority for hosting playoff games this year — in fact, the lousiest possible — so North will have to hit the road if it happens to encounter another No. 1 seed.
If North prevails tonight, it’s assured of at least one more home game. If they advance, the Cavs would take on the North Moore-East Surry survivor in Round 3.
North has generally beaten 1A opponents senseless and/or run them ragged this season. The Cavaliers are batting a staggering .380 as a team while succeeding on 106 of 114 steal attempts.
North has good players, and at times it overmatches 1A competition almost as thoroughly as the school’s boys track team did in Saturday’s Midwest Regional.
North has four regulars — Dakota Brown, Wes Barker, Matt Mauldin and Alex Morgan — who have reached base in more than half of their place appearances. Brown, Barker and Mauldin, have walked more often than they’ve struck out.
Barker’s actually been hit by pitches (13) more frequently than he’s fanned (8), which tells you how incredible his season has been.
Barker, a junior who can play a lot of positions, has scored 46 runs, the most by a North player since Paul Black crossed the plate 47 times for the high-powered 1999 team.
Mauldin has driven in 40, the most RBIs in a season by a Cavalier since Brad Canipe knocked in 45 in 1999.
Mauldin and Brown have collected 44 and 42 hits, respectively. They’re the first Cavs since Nate Woodburn in 2000 to reach the 40-hit plateau. Barker (38) and Morgan (37) aren’t far behind them.
In 2008, believe it or not, North’s leader had seven RBIs for the entire season. North first baseman/DH Hunter Feezor matched that modest production last Friday in about an hour.
Brown, a freshman in 2008, led that team with 11 runs scored and was the only Cav to hit .300. Obviously, things have changed in a short period of time at North.
Having tossed all those wild and crazy offensive numbers out there, it should be noted that East Montgomery, tonight’s opponent, has managed to contain North’s offense. The Cavaliers won 6-0 and 1-0 in the regular season meetings.
Dusty Agner (6-1) pitched both of those shutouts for North. He also pitched only three innings in his start on Friday, so it’s possible he could help out on the mound again. Rimer has other capable options in Matt Laurens (5-1) and Josh Price (4-2), with Brown (2-1, 0.42 ERA) available to close if it’s a tight game.
Weddington at East
Coach Travis Poole’s Weddington team was stunned by South Rowan in the first round last season, but the Warriors (14-9), from the Matthews area, opened the playoffs with an 8-4 win against a highly regarded Hickory Ridge squad that finished second in the SPC in the regular season.
East probably will send Justin Morris, the regular shortstop, to the mound, at Staton Field. That will force a defensive makeover. Third baseman Avery Rogers slides to shortstop, and second baseman Ashton Fleming probably moves over to third base, with DH Chase Hathcock taking over at second.
Morris (1-0) was a find late in the season. He’s a strike-thrower with zero walks on the year, and he hasn’t allowed a run in his 111/3 innings. The plan is for Morris to give the Mustangs four or five innings, with lefty closer Will Johnson (seven saves, 1.21 ERA) waiting behind him.
East has played as well as it has all season in its past two games, shutting out a pair of opponents with airtight defense that has included a triple play and a 3-6-1 double play.
East also belted two homers in its 9-0 playoff victory against Rockingham County, raising its modest season total to 12.
East (19-7) seeks its 20th win, a plateau it has reached in each of the last five seasons under coach Brian Hightower.
Carson at Catholic
Carson-Mount Pleasant was expected to be a marquee first-round matchup, and that proved to be the case.
No one anticipated that the Cougars (17-8) would win that game 1-0 against a very explosive offensive team, but Josh Martin turned in a career pitching effort, and the defense turned in a flawless effort.
Expect another low-scoring game in the second round when the Cougars travel to Pineville’s Hughes Memorial Park for a rematch with Charlotte Catholic (18-3).
Catholic edged South Rowan 2-1 in the first round on Alex Jensen’s two-run double.
Catholic ended Carson’s 2010 season in this round with a tense 3-2 victory in a game played at Charlotte’s Waddell High. Ethan Free (6-4) pitched three shutout innings of relief in that game, and he’s the probable pitcher for Carson tonight.
Carson won a playoff game for the first time in 2010. It will be trying to reach the third round for the first time tonight.
Parkwood at NWC
Assuming coach Joe Hubbard’s team is focused on tonight’s opponent and not looking ahead to a potential home matchup with East Rowan in Round 3, the Trojans (18-8) should handle Parkwood (9-12), a team from the Monroe area.
NWC junior right-hander Weston Smith dominated North Forsyth in the first round with his arm and bat, so senior lefty Rob Bain (9-1) probably gets the call on the hill tonight.
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