High school baseball: Falcons top East in a wild one; Carson beats South behind Simmerson

Published 4:52 am Wednesday, April 19, 2023

By Mike London

MOUNT ULLA — It’s the Seth Graham Way, and it’s been that way since he arrived as head coach at West Rowan.

Fight on every pitch even if the guy on the mound is close to un-hittable.

No easy outs. No wasted at-bats.

Make the pitcher toil. Make even the strikeouts a grinding process by taking pitches, by fouling off pitches.

Take the walks and take the HBPs. Be aggressive on the bases. Take advantage of any mistakes.

Long story short, it worked for the feisty Falcons one more time.

Four East pitchers walked a dozen, while two West pitchers walked one. West scored in the bottom of the seventh on a wild pitch and beat East 7-6.

East (15-4, 10-1) has posted fabulous offensive and pitching stats all season and has as good a chance as anyone to win the 3A state championship, but playing an inspired game on their home field, the Falcons (12-5, 9-2) prevailed on Tuesday to reduce the Mustangs’ lead in the South Piedmont Conference to a single game.

Chance Mako, one of the state’s best, pitched for East, but the Falcons were able to win because Mako, who struck out eight and walked seven, needed 100 pitches to navigate five innings. The pitch count limit is 105. The Falcons didn’t beat the undefeated Mako, but they were able to beat East’s bullpen.

East scored first in the top of the second, breaking the ice against West’s unbeaten starter Corbin Bailey with the help of two errors.

West answered with two runs in the bottom half. Cole Blevins’ double keyed the inning, and the Falcons scored on passed ball and a groundout.

The Mustangs tied it at 2-all in the top of the third on Logan Dyer’s single, Braden Shive’s double and Cobb Hightower’s line-drive sac fly, but Bailey limited the damage.

Blake Hill homered on an 0-and-2 pitch to lead off the fourth, and the Mustangs led 3-2.

The West fourth began with two walks, but Mako got out of it with the help of catcher Joe Burleyson, who threw out a base-stealer.

There were two more walks in the West fifth, but again Mako worked out of it. Burleyson threw out another runner and Mako picked one off.

Hill tripled with two men out in the sixth and scored on a passed ball to push East’s lead to 4-2.

Bailey’s night ended there. He struck out six, walked one and allowed four runs, but only two earned.

With Mako near the pitch-count limit, East coach Brett Hatley sent Dylan Valley to the mound for the bottom of the sixth.

The inning began with two walks before Blevins whacked a single up the middle to slice West’s deficit to 4-3.

Then a hit by Luke Ponczka loaded the bases, and Logan Dyer relieved Valley.

West scored the tying run on a passed ball before pinch-hitter Andrew Helmbold hit a sacrifice fly to give West a 5-4 lead.

With two men out, Luke Graham came through with a run-scoring single for a 6-4 lead.

Relief ace Drew Burton took the mound for the Falcons in the seventh.

Burton got the first out, but Mako’s opposite-field double and a single by Dyer put the tying runs on base.

Shive grounded out, but a run scored, and West’s lead was 6-5. With the Mustangs down to their last out, Hightower lined a single to center to tie the game.

Morgan Padgett’s single moved Hightower to third, but Burton got a ground ball for the third out, and West needed one run in the bottom of the seventh to pull it out.

The Falcons got it.

Matthew Connolly and Burton walked to start the inning. Connolly took third on a wild pitch.

Connolly couldn’t score on a groundout. but Burton to moved to second. Nate Hayworth relieved Dyer, and an intentional walk to Blevins loaded the bases.

Hayworth got two quick strikes on Ponczka, but when a 1-and-2 pitch got away, Connolly raced home from third with the game-deciding run.

Hill scored three runs for the Mustangs. Dyer and Hill had two hits. Hightower drove in two runs.

Graham and Blevins had two hits each for the Falcons. Blevins scored twice.

East had eight hits and made no errors. West had five hits and made three errors, all early.

Burton got the win, while Dyer took the loss.

The teams will play again Friday at Staton Field.


LANDIS — Carson got another superb pitching performance from Hayden Simmerson and beat South Rowan 8-0 on Tuesday.

Simmerson struck out 13 in a complete-game effort for the Cougars (9-9, 6-5).

Jacob Efird had three hits, including two doubles, to lead Carson’s offense.

Austin Efird, Will Bradshaw and Cody Russell added two hits each for the Cougars.

South (7-11, 4-7) has lost six straight South Piedmont Conference games.

The teams will play Friday in China Grove.


Jacob Dudan struck out 10 in four innings as Lake Norman Charter (11-6, 7-4) pounded Concord 10-0 in five innings for a South Piedmont Conference win.

Tanner Kaler struck out 16 batters as Northwest Cabarrus (12-6, 7-4) beat Central Cabarrus 5-1 in the SPC.


In the Central Carolina Conference, North Rowan got its first win since March 21 by pounding Lexington 20-3 in five innings.

The Cavaliers (3-9, 2-7) had a nine-run third and scored six in the fourth.

Trey Johnson reached base four straight times with two hits and two HBPs. Jaiden Burch belted a two-run triple.

Malakie Harris was the winning pitcher for the Cavaliers.

Lexington is 2-13 and 0-9 in the league.