Prep baseball: North in Round 3
By Mike London
SPENCER — North Rowan baseball coach Aaron Rimer studies the colorful images on his office computer and declares that the weather looks perfect for tonight’s third-round 1A playoff game.
Storm trackers may also be picking up a green and gold blip identified as the Cavaliers. Under the radar for a good chunk of this season, Rimer’s team is the last one standing in Rowan.
“The last few weeks have been an unbelievable feeling,” North left fielder Matt Mauldin said. “We haven’t thought about things too much. We’ve just gone out and played — and played real well.”
North hasn’t stood alone in the county since 2000 when UNC-bound southpaw Daniel Moore won 13 games and led the Cavaliers to the 2A state championship series. Rimer was the right fielder on that Bill Kesler-directed team, which fell one win short of immortality but established the school record for victories.
The 2011 version of the Cavaliers (22-6) can match that mark if they can beat East Surry (19-9) at home tonight.
The first pitch is at 7 p.m. Dusty Agner (6-1) will throw it, with lefty Josh Price and shortstop Dakota Brown available in relief.
“It’s big and it’s exciting,” said Mauldin, a senior who is batting .517 with 40 RBIs. “I don’t think, early on, we ever thought we’d be playing in the playoffs this late. Sure, we talked about winning the state championship, but that was mostly just joking around.”
Rimer’s personal scouting report on his own team is that it’s talented — extremely talented and deep for a 1A squad.
Coaches often have to convince their players they’re not as good as they think they are. Rimer’s had a different chore. He’s had to get his players to understand that they’re capable of being something special.
“If you held tryouts, our guys would be all-stars,” Rimer said. “As far as running speed and bat speed, as far as throwing arms, we’re talented, up and down. It’s like I told them on the very first day, ‘Guys, you have no clue how good you can be.’ ”
The low point probably was an error-filled 10-7 loss to YVC opponent West Montgomery that dropped the Cavaliers to 2-2 in the YVC.
A 10-9, eight-inning win on the road at South Stanly that ultimately gave North a share of the YVC title was a turning point, and North beat South Stanly (still alive in the 1A playoffs) again in a YVC tournament seeding game to earn a No. 1 seed. That’s led to three straight home games.
“There are very good teams in our league,” Rimer said. “Albemarle was the last team to beat us. They were the first team in a long time to hit back after we punched them, but that game was good for us.”
Another of the YVC’s good teams — North Moore — fell 3-2 to East Surry in Wednesday’s second round of the playoffs.
Rimer has gathered all the information available.
“East Surry bunts — they bunt a whole lot,” Rimer said. “They bunted seven times against North Moore.”
Needless to say, the Cavaliers spent time on Thursday going over bunt coverages.
Rimer expects to face East Surry ace Jordan Miller tonight. Miller (9-2) pitched some in relief on Wednesday.
“The reports says he’s not overpowering, but that he’s a great pitcher,” Rimer said.
Chase Mills and Kyle Shinault swing big bats for the Cardinals, who are a traditional power in the northwestern part of the state. The Cardinals are a well-drilled, disciplined team and have made appearances in the Cliff Peeler Easter Baseball Classic. In a game against Kernersville Bishop McGuinness, which is still alive in the playoffs, East Surry turned three double plays.
East Surry is in Pilot Mountain. Coach Barry Hall is a legend in the North Carolina high school coaching ranks.
He’s run his program for 36 seasons and is one of a handful of coaches in the state to accumulate more than 600 wins. East Surry’s own diamond is named Barry Hall Field, which tells you something.
East Surry made the 1A state championship series as recently as 2007. North is beginning to believe it can make a run of its own.
“We’re all starting to think we might have a shot at it,” said Jake Smith, one of the heroes of Wednesday’s 8-3 win against East Montgomery.
Rimer likes what he sees on the radar. North could lose tonight — everyone who’s still standing is very good — but the Cavaliers have the material to do memorable things.
“A lot of 1A teams have two really good players, five average ones and two weak ones,” Rimer said. “We can put nine out there who are all pretty good, and I think we’re peaking right now.”