High school baseball: Mustangs mash their way into Round 3

Published 5:11 am Saturday, May 13, 2023

Staff report

GRANITE QUARRY — East Rowan outscored Asheboro 11-6 at Staton Field in Friday’s second round of the 3A state playoffs.

There was more good news for the Mustangs when 15th-seeded North Davidson (16-10) traveled to Hickory and out-slugged second-seeded St. Stephens 13-11.

Those two results will keep East (22-5) at home at Staton Field on Tuesday for the third round.

Tenth-seeded East was in a battle with the 26th-seeded Comets (13-12) in the early innings.

Asheboro scored three runs in the top of the first against East starting pitcher Morgan Padgett, but the Mustangs came right back with three to tie.

“We came in and got four straight hits,” East head coach Brett Hatley said. ‘We swung the bats pretty well.”

East had more walks and HBPs  (5) than strikeouts (3) at the plate.

With the scored tied at 3-all, a Cobb Hightower base hit in the bottom of the second inning skipped past an outfielder and went to the fence. Two runs scored, and Hightower ran through a stop sign at third to score another one. That exciting play gave East a 6-3 lead. Hatley said it was pretty close to being an inside-the-park homer, but an error was scored.

“It was going to be a double-cut (off) for them, but that Asheboro shortstop (Tanner Marsh) is one heck of a player, so I was way down the line trying to hold  up Cobb,” Hatley said. “The shortstop got the ball and made a strong relay throw home, but Cobb was able to beat it.”

Padgett made it through four innings with an 8-6 lead for a hard-earned win.

Logan Dyer was lights-out in a relief role. Asheboro was 9-up and 9-down against Dyer and the Catawba commit struck out seven.

Dyer even got Marsh out. A Liberty signee, Marsh is batting over .500 for the season. Marsh and Cohen Caviness walloped home runs for the Comets.

“That’s the best game Logan has pitched all season,” Hatley said. “Just a phenomenal performance. He was dialed in.”

McCall Henderson smashed a two-run homer in the sixth, his third of the season, to finally give East some breathing room.

East had 11 hits,, but Henderson’s homer was the only extra-base knock.

Hightower went 3-for-4. Harrison Ailshie had two hits and scored twice. Joe Burleyson had two RBIs. Blake Hill stayed hot with three hits, and Braden Shive had three more.

“All those guys got came through with key hits,” Hatley said. “There was a play where our guy was called out at first base for the third out of an inning, but the first baseman came off the bag. We asked the umpire to get help, and he did, and the call went our way. Asheboro had already run off the field and had to come back. Then Shive got a big hit to score a run. That was a momentum swing for us.”

Nate Hayworth hasn’t been able to bat since he was hit on the thumb by a pitch in the South Piedmont Conference Tournament semifinal with South Rowan. But he was able to run the bases on Friday and scored two runs. East’s best defensive team has Hayworth roaming center field, although Ailshie and Shive also are very fast.

For Round 3, East can go back to undefeated senior right-hander Chance Mako on the mound. The N.C. State recruit and potential draft pick was outstanding in Round 1.