High school baseball: West sweeps Mustangs; Carson tops South again
Published 3:05 am Saturday, April 22, 2023
By Mike London
GRANITE QUARRY – West Rowan put four freshmen on the field for Friday’s humongous baseball game with East Rowan at Staton Field.
To say the least,the moment wasn’t too big for any of them. West rolled 11-4, finished a season sweep of the Mustangs and moved into a tie for first with East in the South Piedmont Conference standings.
Freshman Brant Graham pitched five efficient innings for the Falcons (14-5, 10-2) to earn the win. It was 10-1 on the scoreboard when he left the mound.
“A freshman in a big game, but he wasn’t fazed by anything,” West coach Seth Graham. “He went out there and threw strikes. East hit a few balls hard early, but we made the plays. We turned a double play, but guys didn’t have to do anything spectacular behind Brant, they just had to make the routines.”
The game was a coming-out party for West’s freshman left fielder Cole Blevins, who came to Staton Field with seven RBIs for the season and left it with 13.
His six-RBI explosion included a two-out, bases-clearing double in the fifth on an 0-and-2 pitch that knocked out the Mustangs (16-5, 10-2).
Blevins also had a huge, two-out, two-run single in the second inning that made it 4-0 and a run-scoring double in the fourth. He walked in his other two plate appearances.
“Like a lot of our young guys, Cole has been getting better and better and he’s hitting it as well as anyone we’ve got right now,” Coach Graham said. “What he did wasn’t a shock. We have a lot of competitions in batting practice and he pretty much wins his group every day.”
Freshman center fielder Maddox Moore scored three runs. Freshman first baseman Luke Ponczka contributed a run-scoring single in the first inning.
East was in a tough position pitching-wise. Ace Chance Mako pitched Tuesday’s 7-6 loss in Mount Ulla, a game West won by getting to East’s bullpen. Tuesday’s game also cost East its No. 2 pitcher Morgan Padgett, who was ejected. Padgett is 5-1 and would have started Friday, but he wasn’t eligible. East threw relievers Nate Hayworth and Logan Dyer at the Falcons, but West’s tenacious offensive approach led to nine walks and 11 hits.
West lead-off man Luke Graham set the tone in opening minutes — a 10-pitch at-bat that he concluded successfully with a line-drive single to center. With one out, Blevins off four pitches before drawing a full-count walk, Drew Burton worked the count full before his double gave the Falcons a 1-0 lead. Then Ponczka’s single through the right side made it 2-0.
“We really made Nate Hayworth throw a lot of pitches in the first inning,” Coach Graham said. “What we preach is to keep fouling off pitches until you get one you can put it in play. Mako, on Tuesday, I know he didn’t have his best stuff that night, but our guys also did a great job of competing and grinding out at-bats against an outstanding pitcher. We competed on every at-bat again tonight.”
When Brant Graham retired the fearsome top of East’s lineup on a handful of pitches in the bottom of the first, the Falcons had all the momentum and were on their way.
Brant Graham allowed four hits and two runs. He walked one and struck out two. He rolled hrough five innings with just 52 pitches.
Luke Graham had three hits and scored three runs. Burton and Matthew Connolly scored two runs each. Moore and Burton had doubles. They supported Blevins’ monster night.
East scored a run in the second to temporarily get back to 4-1. Blake Hill singled, Hayworth’s double moved him to third, and McCall Henderson’s sac fly scored him.
Luke Graham relieved Brant Graham in the sixth and allowed three runs. Hightower and Henderson had RBI singles. Hayworth got a run home with a sacrifice fly.
The Mustangs and Falcons are even now. The SPC regular-season race ends next week, with West Rowan playing South Rowan twice and East Rowan taking on surging Northwest Cabarrus, which has a lot of good arms.
“It was a great week for us and that includes the game we won at Alexander Central on Wednesday when they came in with a 12-game winning streak,” Coach Graham said. “I don’t remember us ever sweeping East (varsity and jayvee) in four games, and East is really good.”
The win was the 136th for Graham at the helm of the Falcons. That tied him with Chris Cauble, who coached some strong teams at West, including a 3A state runner-up, before getting Carson’s program started.
“I’ve gotten quite a few texts about that tonight,” Graham said. “Those wins just mean we’ve had a lot of great kids. I was very proud of the way our guys played tonight and all week.”
CHINA GROVE — Carson beat South Rowan 10-6 in a wild one on Friday.
Jacob Efird’s three-run homer in the bottom of the sixth was the decisive blow.
Carson (10-9, 7-5) rolled 8-0 against South (7-12, 4-8) on Tuesday behind Hayden Simmerson in a game that South ace Haiden Leffew left after facing a handful of batters.
On Friday, Carson coach Kyle Bridges sent tall southpaw Casey Crawford to the mound. Crawford was in charge through the first four innings, striking out seven, and the Cougars used a three-run double by Daniel Savage to take a 4-0 lead.
South’s five-run fifth shook things up.
“We put the first four men on for them with walks and hit batters, and South got a big hit from the lefty cleanup hitter (freshman Drew Pegram) and Leffew drove in a couple,” Bridges said. “But then our relief pitcher, Corbin Hales, settled in. He’s been good all year.”
Down 5-4, Carson got a clutch, two-run double from Will Bradshaw in the bottom of the fifth to retake the lead at 6-5.
South tied it in the top of the sixth at 6-all, but Efird’s homer highlighted a four-run bottom of the sixth and made Hales the winner.
Daniel Savage tripled, doubled and had three RBIs. Daxton Savage went 2-for-2. Cameron Burleyson had two RBIs. Efird had two hits and scored twice. Bradshaw had two hits and two RBIs.
Dalton Hazlett pitched a five-inning no-hitter with seven strikeouts as Northwest Cabarrus pounded Central Cabarrus 11-1.
Hazlett and Aiden Stewart went 3-for-3 at the plate.
SPENCER — Malakie Harris hit a two-run homer to back the strong pitching of Carter Boydston as North Rowan pummeled Lexington 11-1 in an abbreviated Central Carolina Conference game on Friday.
North takes on Salisbury twice this week.
SALISBURY — Salisbury (6-14) beat North Hills 14-2 on Friday.
It was an easy one for the Hornets after they scored seven runs in the first inning.
Jackson Sparger and Aiden Mowery scored three runs each.
Cole Price scored two runs and had two RBIs.
Hank Webb had two hits and two RBIs.
Salisbury used Price, Mowery, Mike Geter and Nygel Elliott on the mound.
Freshmen Gracin Craig and Colton Krieg had RBIs for North Hills (6-5).
See photo gallery from game here https://www.salisburypost.com/2023/04/24/photo-gallery-west-victory-over-mustangs-leads-to-tie-atop-spc-baseball-standings/