High school baseball: Mustangs bounce back, force Game 3

Published 10:44 pm Thursday, May 23, 2024

Staff report

WAYNESVILLE — Thanks to a lengthy weather delay, it was a long night in the mountains for East Rowan, but when Harrison Ailshie’s grand slam headed over the center-field fence in the top of the third for a 6-0 lead, there was no longer any doubt about the outcome.

East Rowan’s baseball team bounced back from its first loss in two months on Tuesday and clobbered Tuscola 12-2 on the road on Thursday. Now the stage is set for a decisive Game 3 at Staton Field. The winner of Friday’s game will head to the state championship series.

East is 31-2, tying the county record for wins in a season that was set by East’s 2010 state champs.

With the aid of a diving catch, Tuscola starting pitcher Brayden Cockrell got the Mustangs out in the first two innings to keep the game scoreless, but the Mustangs got things rolling with the bottom of the lineup in the top of the third. They did it with little ball. A walk and two successful bunts filled the bases with no outs.

Braden Shive was hit by a pitch to force home East’s first run. Cobb Hightower’s full-count walk made it 2-0.

Then Ailshie unloaded, sending his eighth homer of the season sailing out of the park. That shot suddenly made it 6-0, and with Logan Dyer pitching, East’s win probability was in the neighborhood of 99 percent.

East made it 7-0 before the top of the third was over. Tuscola had a chance to turn a double play to end the inning, but a throwing error handed East an additional run.

Dyer’s toughest obstacle turned out to be the weather delay that arrived in the bottom of the third when lightning was spotted by an umpire.

When play resumed about an hour later, Dyer returned to the mound and was able to finish what he started.

The Catawba recruit is now 11-0. He allowed five hits, walked four and struck out seven.

Hightower, who scored three runs, lined a two-run homer in the fourth to stretch East’s cushion to 9-0. It was his ninth homer of the season.

Tuscola got back to 9-2 on run-scoring hits by Noah Stepp and Evan Conner in the fourth and fifth.

East scored three times in the sixth to end it early via the 10-run rule. Nate Hayworth had a sac fly, while Mason Phelps socked a two-run double to deep center.

Now it comes down to Friday’s game for the Mustangs. Joe Burleyson is the probable starting pitcher.