Prep baseball: East Rowan falls to North Davidson
By David Shaw
GRANITE QUARRY — If Tuesday’s season-opener sounded like smooth jazz to East Rowan’s baseball team, it’s second game resembled an untuned piano.
It took two days for the Mustangs to break into the loss column with a 10-6 non-conference setback against visiting North Davidson on Thursday.
They trailed by three runs when the skies opened up and halted play in the fourth inning Wednesday night. The teams reconvened yesterday and finished the game under better conditions.
“It didn’t feel like a real game today,” East shortstop Chandler Blackwelder said, a day after blasting his second home run of the season. “We really had some momentum before the rain, but you never know if that’s going to carry over.”
It didn’t. With blue skies and bright sunshine framing Staton Field, East (1-1) was stymied by North right-hander Todd Waggoner, a hard throwing junior who retired 10 of the 12 batters he faced in 3 1/3 innings of scoreless relief.
“He’s inexperienced,” said winning coach Matt Griffin after the defending 4A state champions improved to 2-0. “All he needs is experience. It was tremendous what he was able to do. We only wanted to use one pitcher today and he got us through it.”
Waggoner earned the victory in relief of senior left-hander Peyton Bennett, who pitched all of Wednesday’s action for the Knights. He was aided by inning-ending double plays in the first and second innings before yielding an unearned run in last of the third, then unravelling in the fourth when the Mustangs batted around and scored five times.
There was only one problem. By the time East cracked the code against Bennett, it already trailed 9-1. North reached Mustangs’ freshman Jake Davis — a southpaw making his first varsity start — for two runs in the top of the first inning, two more in the third and five in the fourth before Hayden Setzer was summoned to get the final out.
“There’s a lot to like about Davis,” said interim coach Brett Hatley. “He’s got good stuff. A lot of guys have that overpowering fastball or great breaking ball. This guy has four good pitches, works both sides of the plate and changes eye levels up and down. I was very pleased with his outing.”
Hatley — subbing for suspended head coach Brian Hightower — said Davis will likely commute from jayvee to varsity this spring, but his first appearance was uneven. He allowed nine runs, five of them earned, on seven hits in 3 2/3 innings.
“If it wasn’t for all the errors, it might have been 4-3,” Hatley said, which coincidently mirrored the miscue count.
East made the game interesting with an explosive fourth inning. Bryson Wagner and Jax Fitz coaxed walks and Matthew Mathis grounded a single into left field. The Mustangs’ first run scored on an error, their second on a Corbin Moss groundout and the last three when Blackwelder hoisted a 3-0 pitch over the left-field fence.
“Up and in, beautiful,” Blackwelder indicated. “Right in my zone. When Hatley gave me the green light, my eyes lit up. I’m not used to that.”
Hatley, of course, isn’t Hightower — a strict disciple of the get-them-on, get-them-over, get-them-home mindset. “We didn’t have a lot of options,” Hatley explained. “It was two outs with two on. We needed a big hit.”
Trailing 9-6 when play resumed Thursday, East managed only Setzer’s fourth-inning single. North closed the scoring against reliever Colby Myrick, who yielded Nick Tiller’s run-scoring infield hit in the top of the fifth.
“It’s hard to win over here,” Griffin said afterward. “Crazy things happen here. I didn’t feel good about having to come back today with just a three-run lead instead of a five- or six-run lead, but I’m glad we got the job done.”
NOTES: Setzer had two hits for the Mustangs while Fitz scored twice. … Hightower, one of seven participants ejected in last season’s playoff finale, returns to the dugout when East visits Cox Mill today.
N. Davidson 202 510 0 — 10 9 4
East Rowan 001 500 0 — 6 8 3
W — Waggoner (1-0). L — Davis (0-1). HR — Blackwelder (2).
Leading hitters — N. Davidson: LaFlesh 3-for-3, 3 RBIs; E.Rowan: Blackwelder 3-for-4, 3 RBIs.
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