High school baseball: Falcons flying high, win again

Published 6:14 am Tuesday, April 25, 2023


Staff report

MOUNT ULLA – In a key baseball game that was moved up from Friday to Monday due to the weather outlook, streaks, hot and cold, continued, as West Rowan beat South Rowan 8-3.

West has won nine straight South Piedmont Conference games since a March 24 loss to Lake Norman Charter, while South has lost eight straight league outings since beating Lake Norman Charter in extra innings on March 29.

West (15-5, 11-2) is on a roll, is tied for first place with East Rowan and has swept the Mustangs. West can nail down the SPC’s best seed for the 3A state playoffs by winning its final SPC game at South on Tuesday.

West head coach Seth Graham, who took charge prior in Mount Ulla prior to the 2015 season, got his 137th win on Monday, the most in the history of the program. The others who coached 100 or more wins for West baseball: Chris Cauble 136, Gary Safrit 122 and Skip Kraft 100.

South (7-13, 4-9) out-hit the Falcons 10-8 and smacked five doubles, but West draws a lot of walks and doesn’t walk a lot of people. Also, South made five errors, while West made one. West executed on a sac bunt, got a sac fly when it needed one, turned a double play in a pivotal situation and stole three bases. A lot of little things are adding up to big things for the Falcons these days.

Corbin Bailey got the job done on the mound again for West. He’s been tougher to hit, but he was good enough. He pitched six innings for his sixth win with no losses, struck out seven and walked two. With Bailey at 100 pitches, Alex O’Rourke took the mound to close it, but South’s first three batters in the seventh reached base. Luke Graham moved to the mound and got the last three outs.

West scored four runs in the bottom of the first and never looked back. Graham singled to greet South hurler Logan Ballard, and red-hot freshman Cole Blevins doubled with one out for a 1-0 lead. Two balks later it was 2-0. A couple of errors later, it was 4-0.

West pushed ahead 6-0 in the second inning, taking advantage of free passes and miscues. Blevins had a hit. Drew Burton had a sac fly.

The Raiders hit some balls hard in the third — consecutive doubles by Haiden Leffew, freshman Drew Pegram and Cole Thomas — to cut the Falcons’ lead to 6-2.

The top of the fourth was pivotal, as South had a chance to get back in the game. With one out, Conner Coy singled, Leffew got another hit, and Pegram walked to fill the bases and bring the tying run to the plate. Thomas went 3-for-4, but Bailey won the battle that counted most. He got a ground ball when he needed one, and the double play is still the pitcher’s best friend. West third baseman Zach McNeely tagged the bag and threw across the diamond to Burton to complete a back-breaking twin killing.

Then West made it 8-2 in the bottom of the fourth. Blevins singled to right to start the inning. After a strikeout, two walks filled the bases. Reliever Brett Morris almost got the Raiders out of it, but the Falcons added two runs on a two-out error.

That’s how it stayed until the South seventh. Thomas singled to start the inning, Marshal Faw walked, and Brooks Hubbard’s line-drive double to right got South within 8-3, with two more in scoring position.

But that’s when Luke  Graham relieved and got a popup, a come-backer and a strikeout to end it. By rule, he didn’t qualify for a save, but he saved it, nonetheless.

South’s 2-3-4 hitters — Thomas, Pegram and Leffew — went 7-for-11.