Prep Baseball: East Rowan 13, Reynolds 5

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, February 28, 2012

By Mike London
GRANITE QUARRY — It wasn’t the performance Bradley Robbins was looking for, but it was good enough.
Honored with the inaugural Patrick Snider Memorial Award as Rowan County’s 2011 Pitcher of the Year before the game, Robbins experienced some uncharacteristic struggles. But the senior right-hander still struck out 10 in 41/3 innings in East Rowan’s 13-5 win against R.J. Reynolds at Staton Field on opening night for the Mustangs.
Snider’s parents, David and Jennifer, were on hand to present the trophy to Robbins, and Gary Ritchie of Gary’s Barbecue, who sponsors the award, joined them at home plate.
“The award did add a little bit to the nerves,” Robbins said with a smile. “I just wanted to do well, and I knew everyone expected a lot.”
Robbins actually hit better than he pitched. He homered — a no-doubt bomb to left — and doubled, surprising people who had never seen him swing a bat before.
“Don’t expect that every game, but he can help us with the bat,” East coach Brian Hightower said. “He’s one heck of an athlete.”
East also got lots of offense from Nathan Fulbright (three RBIs), Connor Johnson (2-for-2, plus two walks) and Jared Mathis, who doubled, tripled and drove in three.
Robbins had a rough time in the top of the first, and the award-related emotion no doubt had something do with that. He fell behind hitters, and the 4A Demons, coming off a 12-12 season, found holes with groundballs. It was 3-0 before Robbins struck out the side to end the inning.
Robbins also fanned the side in the second, but by then his pitch count was already soaring into the 50s.
“Bradley is in great shape, but we really didn’t want to go over 100 pitches with him today and 110 absolute max,” said Hightower, who finally wound up pulling him after his 106th pitch in the fifth.
“It just wasn’t one of my better games and I didn’t feel like I had my good stuff at all,” Robbins said. “But after that first inning, I was able to take deep breaths and get my composure back a little bit.”
East’s offensive success allowed Robbins, who didn’t lose a game he started in 2011, to begin the season 1-0.
“It was just one of those times when Bradley wasn’t at his best,” said Fulbright, East’s catcher. “But he still held them down, and by the time he came out, we had the lead.”
Fulbright and Mathis drove in runs in the bottom of the first. Robbins made it 3-all when he homered leading off the second.
Down 4-3 going to the bottom of the fourth, East settled the issue with a six-run outburst. Johnson’s RBI single tied it, and Chase Hathcock’s hit put ER in front for the first time. Fulbright smoked a two-run double and Roby Holmes delivered a two-out, two-run single to blow it open.
“The main thing as far as hitting that pitcher (lefty Brandon Sullivan) was to keep our weight back and drive the ball the other way,” Fulbright said. “I stayed back and got into two of ’em pretty well. As the cleanup hitter this year, I’m being counted on to knock in the runs. Not saying it’s pressure, but I know I need to do more.”
Lefty Curtis Ward got East out of a jam in the fifth when he spelled Robbins, and Mathis threw flames for two innings to close things out.
Ty Andrus and Drew Fisch had three hits each for RJR, which lost catcher Will Cox to an injury in the fourth.