High school baseball: Mustangs win Round 1 with Cougars

Published 3:57 am Thursday, March 30, 2023

Staff report

CHINA GROVE — East Rowan took Round 1 in the first marquee county matchup of the baseball season on Wednesday.

Mustangs 1, Carson 0, in eight innings.

East (9-2, 5-0) is in first place in the South Piedmont Conference. Carson (5-5, 3-2) dropped, at least temporarily, to the middle of the pack.

It was ace against ace, and Carson standout Hayden Simmerson couldn’t have pitched any better. The Catawba signee blanked a hard-hitting East lineup full of .400 hitters for seven innings. He struck out 11, walked three, allowed two singles. The pitch count limit is 105, but it’s permissible to finish a batter after getting to 105. Simmerson got the last out of the top of the seventh on his 107th pitch.

Unfortunately for Simmerson and the Cougars, East’s Chance Mako, N.C. State recruit and potential draft pick, was on the mound for the visitors and may have pitched his best high school game. The tall right-hander struck out 14, walked only one and allowed two hits. Mako (4-0) went the distance. He got the final out of the game on his 105th pitch.

Casey Crawford, a big lefty, replaced Simmerson to begin the top of the eighth, and East was able to manufacture a run without getting a hit. Three walks and an HBP. Blake Hill scored the run. Braden Shive got credit for the game’s only RBI.

Carson batted .080 against Mako, with Emory Taylor and Austin Efird getting the hits. Every player in the Carson lineup struck out at least once. Five of them struck out twice.

The Mustangs batted .091 against Simmerson. Cobb Hightower and Logan Dyer, a future Catawba teammate of Simmerson, had singles for East. Everyone in the East lineup struck out at least once.

They’ll go at it again on Friday at Staton Field, with East’s Morgan Padgett and Carson lefty Mikey Beasley the probable pitchers. There definitely won’t be as many strikeouts, but runs still won’t be easy to come by.