High school baseball: Talented teams meet at Staton Field in Round 3

Published 6:23 am Tuesday, May 16, 2023

Staff report

GRANITE QUARRY — When East Rowan mauled North Davidson 17-0 in non-conference baseball in early March, the Mustangs probably didn’t anticipate a rematch in the third round of the 3A state playoffs,

North Davidson is obviously much different than it was two months ago, and the Black Nights have done some coming together since the opening weeks of the season.

As far as sheer talent, the Black Knights appear to be the most talented team the Mustangs have faced this season. Like the Mustangs, North Davidson has 90-ish arms and D-I and D-II studs.

First pitch is set for 7 p.m. on Tuesday at Staton Field.

East (22-5) was second in 3A West RPI, but was only seeded 10th for the playoffs. The current system used by the NCHSAA is good, but that doesn’t mean it’s perfect.

Still, it all has worked out well for East. A No. 10 seed normally gets only one home game. But there have been upsets. East got to play the second round at home and is at home again for Round 3.

Rounds 1 and 3 are pitched by the aces. East gets back to unbeaten ace Chance Mako for this one. Mako, who signed with N.C. State, was great — and then some — in the first round.

East has terrific offensive potential, with a great blend of power, speed and high averages. Cobb Hightower, a junior shortstop committed to UNC, is good for about three hits a night, and everyone East puts in the batter’s box is a threat.

East, coached by Brett Hatley, hasn’t played many bad games. There were two losses on a Georgia trip. There was an extra-inning, non-conference loss. There were two losses in one wild week against West Rowan.

While it is a 15 seed, North Davidson (16-10) has four power arms, all right-handed. Sophomore Justin Mabe, an early UNC commit, is the best known, but Campbell-bound Ethan Snyder, Brayden Hill and Carter Benson (Mount Olive) also can bring it.

Ooffensive standouts for North Davidson include Alex Naylor (Wingate), Reid Nisley, Eli Phillips and Hayden Gooding, It’s an experienced team, coached by Matt Griffin, who used to lead Lexington Post 8 American Legion.

If you’re wondering how North Davidson could lose 10 games, well, the Black Knights played in a tough league, They finished third behind Ledford and Oak Grove.

Ledford and Oak also are still playing. The fourth-place team from that league was the Asheboro squad that East Rowan outscored 11-6 last Friday.

Next for the winner is No. 3 West Henderson or No. 11 Kings Mountain.