Prep Baseball: East Rowan 5, West Rowan 0: Robbins, East now alone in first
By David Shaw
GRANITE QUARRY — Bradley Robbins put his signature on another suitable-for-framing performance — even though this one wasn’t a masterpiece.
The East Rowan righthander was a bit of a wild card on the mound in Friday’s 5-0 NPC nod over visiting West Rowan, a victory that elevated the Mustangs into first place alone for the first time this season.
“He battled tonight,” coach Brian Hightower said after East (8-6, 6-2) collected its third straight conference win. “He didn’t have his great stuff. He didn’t have his slider and his fastball was all over the place. But he knew what this meant for us and he wanted to be the man.”
Robbins hurled his second consecutive complete-game shutout despite walking eight batters, uncorking two wild pitches, committing a balk and fouling a pitch off the instep of his left foot.
“I was a little too jacked at the beginning of the game,” Robbins said after pitching a three-hitter. “I was thinking way too much. It’s when I don’t think that I’m more zoned in.”
Robbins may be East Rowan’s Captain Quirk, but he was Houdini in spikes when he escaped dangerous jams in the first, second, third and sixth innings.
“He made pitches to get out of innings,” West coach Chad Parker said after the Falcons (7-8, 6-3) relinquished the league lead. “We helped him out at times, kind of let him off the hook. We had our opportunities but didn’t capitalize. That goes back to him.”
West lefty Justin Evans was saddled with the tough-luck loss. He held East scoreless for three innings and surrendered a single run in the fourth, then withered when the Mustangs batted around in a four-run fifth.
“That one inning,” he said afterward. “If we make our plays, maybe this goes the other way.”
East went ahead in the last of the fourth when catcher Nathan Fulbright grounded a leadoff bunny-hop single into left field. With one away, Robbins pounded a 2-2 pitch off his left foot. After a short delay he laced Evans’ next delivery into left for an RBI double.
“He hung an inside curveball,” Robbins reported. “I saw it out of his hand … saw it all the way.”
East’s fifth-inning spree began innocently enough when No. 9 hitter Ashton Fleming reached on a perfectly placed bunt single down the the first-base line. Evans reached the ball quickly but failed to make a play.
“I couldn’t plant my feet and slid on the grass,” he said.
Fleming moved to second base on a groundout and to third on a wild pitch. Then Connor Johnson was hit by a pitch and Andy Austin was walked intentionally, loading the bases for Fulbright.
“By walking Andy, that told me they didn’t believe I could do it,” Fulbright said. “They’d been feeding me fastballs all night, but that was a first-pitch curve and I pulled it down the line.”
Fulbright’s two-run double gave East a 3-0 lead.
“That was huge,” Hightower said. “Fulbright’s been coming through for us all year.”
A fourth run crossed on an infield error and another when Jared Mathis whipped a run-scoring double to center.
Robbins took care of the rest. He worked out of a two-on-with-none-out pickle in the top of the sixth by inducing a groundout and fanning Cody McNeely and Rhett Hellard. Laboring and cramping in the seventh, Robbins issued his last two walks before the Mustangs turned a pivotal double play. West had runners at the corners with two away when Robbins caught Matt Miller looking for a game-ending strikeout, his 14th of the night.
“He didn’t have his best stuff,” Fulbright said. “But Robbins always seems to make key pitches when he has to. When you do that you get key outs and win key games.”
NOTE: East is set to host Glenn at Staton Field on Tuesday night.