East Rowan beats South Iredell
By Marny Hendrick
GRANITE QUARRY — There are two things to expect when John Owen takes the mound for East Rowan: intensity and a fast pace of play. The senior right-hander stifled a stout South Iredell line-up on two hits Monday night, to post a easy 11-3 win
The win put the Mustangs (14-7) into the finals tonight against West Rowan in the East Rowan Spring Break tournament at Staton Field.
An ugly seventh inning by both teams produced the lopsided final score but for six innings it was all Owen in dominating fashion. He improved to 5-1 by holding the Vikings (11-7) to two singles while striking out 11, and walking two. It was all about his inside-outside quick pitching technique and a measly ERA of 0.85.
“I try to keep the tempo up to get as many pitches in there as fast as possible,”Owen said.” It really keeps the batters off stride. Throwing soft away and hard in works best for me.” It also keeps the opponent guessing.
The East Rowan offense gave their ace some early run support that proved more than enough. Chandler Blackwelder led off the game with a single, stole second and third and scored on a Hayden Setzer single. The Mustangs added two more in the third off Viking starter Tanner Orr on a Bryson Wagner single, a walk, a sacrifice bunt and a two-run single to right by Blackwelder.
Owen helped himself in an explosive fashion in the 5th to make it 4-0, as he ripped a standup triple to right. Then Owen surprised everyone with two outs when he stole home easily just as Jax Fitz stepped into the batters box.
Meanwhile out on the mound, Owen was perfect through three, hit Orr with a pitch in the fourth but still had a no hitter going in the fifth. A pair of walks was followed by a sharp grounder off Owen’s lower leg that rolled into right for a tough luck single. But he left the bases loaded with a strikeout and fielder’s choice to keep the score at 4-0.
“I don’t know what it is about the fifth inning,” Owen said,” whether it is high school or legion ball or whatever, the fifth inning is always rough for me. It is just something I have to pitch through.”
The Mustangs put the game completely out of reach in the top of the seventh with a seven-run outburst on five hits and a pair of walks off two South Iredell relievers. The big hits were RBI singles by Setzer and Will Brown plus a two-run triple to deep center by catcher Trevor Scruggs.
The Vikings plated three unearned runs off reliever Corbin Moss in the bottom of the seventh due to a dropped fly ball and singles by Orr and Keegan Nimblett making the final 11-3.
“I thought we played really well, said Mustang coach Brian Hightower. “We swung it well and we scored early which is key when John is on the mound. He was great tonight like he is every night. The pace of play is really good when he is on the mound. He is a great player and a great kid.”
East now faces conference foe West Rowan at 7 p.m. tonight for the Spring Break tournament title. It will be the third meeting of the season for the county rivals after each won on the other’s home field earlier.
“Anytime you can play West Rowan it is a lot of fun,” Hightower said. “They are a great team and I love their players and their coaches. It should be a good game.”
Setzer (5-1), the senior lefty, is slated to go on the m9und for East in tonight’s game.
East Rowan 1 2 0 0 1 0 7 – 11 12 1
S. Iredell 0 0 0 0 0 0 3 – 3 5 0
W – Owen (5-1) L – Orr (1-2)
Leading Hitters – East: Setzer 2-for-4, 2 RBI, Owen 2-for-4, 3B, Mathis 2-for-3, RBI, Blackwelder 1-for-2, 2 RBI, 2 SB; S. Iredell: Orr 1-for-3, 1 RBI, Fierra 1-for-2, Neill 1-for-2.
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