Prep Baseball: East gets in the first practice
By Mike London
GRANITE QUARRY — The thermometer late Sunday night read 29 degrees Fahrenheit, but East Rowan coach Brian Hightower was thinking baseball.
But then, Hightower is always thinking baseball.
Or maybe it’s brrrr-aseball at this shivery point in mid-February.
Many Mustangs spent Sunday afternoon involved in their standard paintball activities, but Hightower expected them to be at Staton Field well before midnight raring to go.
In all seriousness, the Mustangs took the field for an eight-inning intrasquad game this morning between midnight and 12:01 a.m.
“No, the weather’s not the best,” Hightower admitted. “But the wind is just 5 mph. No problem.”
Hightower has had Feb. 13 — the first official day of baseball practice permitted by the NCHSAA — circled on his calendar in red since May 19.
That’s because 2011 ended for East with a 2-1 3A playoff loss to Weddington on May 18.
Hightower’s not a fan of losing.
East was 19-8 last spring, a sturdy record that would have been cause for parades, cake and ice cream in many communities, but to Hightower it was a semi-disaster.
The five years before that, East had gone 20-9, 20-8, 29-5, 23-5 and 31-2 under his direction. The 31-2, as you probably recall, was a 3A state championship season.
“But we didn’t win a darn thing last year — well, except for the NPC and the NPC tournament,” Hightower said. “That’s not nearly good enough. We need to get back in the hunt for more than that.”
Justin Morris, Will Johnson, Luke Thomas, Will Sapp and Avery Rogers moved on to college, but Hightower still has elite first baseman Andy Austin, stud pitcher Bradley Robbins and returning regulars Nathan Fulbright, Chase Hathcock, Ashton Fleming, Jared Mathis and Wesley LeRoy. He also anticipates senior Roby Holmes having a breakout season.
“We don’t want anyone to outwork us, said Hightower, who said practice No. 2 would take place this afternoon at 3 p.m., about 12 hours after practice No. 1 concludes.
“Two practices the first day is a positive,” Hightower said cheerfully. “That should put us one practice ahead of everybody else.”
Coming off their biggest win of the season, a stunning victory over previously unbeaten and second-ranked Concord, A.L. Brown’s boys open play in the SPC tournament tonight.
The third-seeded A.L. Brown boys (15-8) play at home at 6 p.m. against No. 6 seed Cox Mill, a team they split with during the regular season.
A.L. Brown’s fifth-seeded girls (12-11) are at No. 4 Northwest Cabarrus for a first-round game tonight.
A.L. Brown is the host for the semifinals and finals. Both boys semis will be on Tuesday, while the girls play on Wednesday.
Championship games will be played at Bullock Gym on Friday.
A.L. Brown’s boys have earned a state playoff berth, although they still could be the SPC’s No. 2, No. 3, No. 4 or even No. 5 seed depending on how the tournament unfolds.
A.L. Brown’s girls are in the 3A state playoffs unless one of the underdogs — Mount Pleasant, Central Cabarrus or Cox Mill — wins the tourney.
See Scoreboard for a host of tournament pairings and times in all the area leagues.
The entire CPC basketball tournament will be conducted at Reagan High in Pfafftown.
Davie’s second-seeded boys (17-6) have a first-round bye and won’t play until Wednesday at 7:30 p.m. The War Eagles will take on the winner of Monday’s Reagan-North Davidson contest.
The boys championship game is set for 7:30 p.m. on Friday.
Davie’s sixth-seeded girls (3-20) play on Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. against third-seeded North Davidson.
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