Prep Baseball: South Rowan 5, North Iredell 1
By Mike London
OLIN — Dillon Parker and Matt Miller threw effectively for South Rowan on Tuesday, but it was a peg by catcher Eric Tyler that was the backbreaker for North Iredell.
Justin Edmonds and Seth White started the third inning with clean hits against Parker, and North Iredell was threatening to turn momentum when Tyler fired a seed to shortstop Parker Hubbard, who made a slap tag at second base for a rally-draining pickoff.
“We’ve got a little sign for a delayed pick when we see a baserunner kind of turn his back and start walking back to the bag,” Tyler said. “I stand up and Hubbard creeps in behind the runner. We’ve tried it several times this year, but this was the first time that it’s worked.”
It was the single biggest play in a 5-1 NPC victory that kept South (10-7, 5-4) in the thick of the playoff fight.
“This is one we had to have,” South coach Thad Chrismon said. “Tough game, but we did enough.”
Parker, who started the season 0-3 on the mound, is now 3-3. He worked five shutout frames that had to be excruciating for North Iredell (5-7, 2-5). NI had two men on base in every one of Parker’s innings, but he was 5-for-5 at escaping jams.
“He’s a gritty kid,” Tyler said of his junior classmate. “He made big pitches when he had to and grinded through five innings for us.”
Parker ended the second, third and fourth innings with strikeouts, and Hubbard made a fine play up the middle to get him through a potentially messy first.
“I had some control issues,” Parker said. “ I couldn’t really command the fastball and the curveball kept coming up short. But my cutter was pretty good, and guys were making plays. That pickoff at second — that was a big confidence-booster.”
Tyler Fuller opened the game with a walk and stole second. He scored when Tyler’s perfect bunt toward third was thrown away.
Tyler, who always bats third, was in the No. 2 hole in a lineup tweak by Chrismon, and was able to execute.
“At 5-8, I’m not a natural-born No. 3 hitter,” Tyler said with a laugh. “I don’t mind being a small-ball guy.”
Still in the first, Bubba McLaughlin’s sharp single, plus an error, enabled courtesy runner Spencer Matlock to score South’s second run.
“Four of South’s runs were off the baserunners we gave them with walks and hit batters,” NI coach Denny Key Jr. said. “We didn’t give ourselves a chance. We’re not good enough to overcome all the mistakes that we made.”
South’s three-run third gave Parker breathing room. Walks to Matt Miller and Dylan Goodman set the table, and the bottom of the lineup produced two-out hits.
No. 8 hitter Jonnie Lefebvre drilled a two-run single through the left side, and a solid hit by No. 9 man Eric Goldston made it 5-0.
“That’s exactly what we’ve been talking about,” Chrismon said. “We’ve gotten guys on base, but where we’ve fallen short is not being able to drive them in. Tonight, we got some very big hits, and we also ran the bases well.”
Miller pitched the sixth and seventh, striking out four. North Iredell finally got on the scoreboard on a dropped popup with two outs in the seventh, but Miller ended the game with a strikeout on nasty breaking ball.
North Iredell reliever Drew Weibley provided most of the highlights for his team with impressive shutout relief after he entered in the third.
“But we just didn’t do a good enough job of situational hitting tonight,” Key said. “We stranded too many and we struck out too much.”