High school baseball: Future bright for East rising junior Ailshie

Published 12:00 am Sunday, July 7, 2024


Harrison Ailshie


By Mike London

SALISBURY — East Rowan’s Harrison Ailshie had a 10/10 high school baseball season as a sophomore.

That’s 10 homers and 10 pitching wins. Ailshie, who played for head coach Brett Hatley, is the first to accomplish that double-double in Rowan County baseball in this century.

“The pitching was really a big surprise,” Ailshie said. “I didn’t expect anything like that to happen. I pitched one game in an Easter Tournament as a freshman, and that was it. But we worked to be a good pitching staff all fall and winter. We worked a lot with our pitching coach (Ethan Free) and when you work as hard as we did, good things will happen.”

Good things like winning 34 games and the 3A state championship.

East Rowan also won it all in 1995 and 2010, so that was the third state championship in a 30-year period. It’s tough to win 3A baseball. No other school has won three 3A titles in the last 30 years.

High school seasons are short. East played an extraordinary number of games for a high school team, but 36 games, beginning in the chill of winter, is still not a long or comfortable season.

East is almost always good in baseball and has produced a number of double-digit wins by pitchers in this century: Logan Dyer (12, 2024), Cameron Padgett (10, 2022), John Owen (10, 2016), Connor Johnson (10, 2014), Bradley Robbins (10, 2011), Parker Gobbel (10, 2010), Corbin Shive (11, 2008), Cy Young (10, 2006) and Brian Hatley (10, 2000), the older brother of Coach Hatley.

The homers are the hard part of the equation. Usually if you hit three or four homers in a high school season, you’ll lead your team.

Ailshie was the first Mustang to hit 10 homers in a season since Adam Horton slugged 10 in 1999.

He is a very special left-handed hitter.

“It’s a compact swing and it gives him a shorter path to the ball than most hitters,” said South Charlotte Panthers coach Scott Clemons, who coaches Ailshie in the summer along with Carson Cougar coaches Kyle Bridges and Jesse Park. “He can keep the barrel in the zone a little longer than most. He makes a lot of quality contact and he can really drive the ball.”

Scouts describe Ailshie as “twitchy,” which is the new buzz-word for athletic. He runs well and throws well. He played left field for East the last two seasons, but probably will move to center field as a junior. Still it’s his bat that’s going to make him a Division I player and a potential draft pick out of high school.

“He’s already getting a lot of traction from the ACC schools,” Clemens said. “The portal has changed baseball recruiting dramatically. Colleges with a hole to fill now can bring in a 20-year-old with some physicality, a guy who already has put on those 20 pounds of college muscle, and also has experience. So it’s a lot tougher for a high school senior now, but Ailshie has a lot of tools. He’s not going to have any problems being recruited. The Panthers are a strong organization, and he’s one of the best hitters in our organization.”

Ailshie’s SC Panthers team recently won the Black Bear Classic in Greenville, S.C. Next is a major test in Georgia, the World Wood Bat Association National Championships at the East Cobb Complex near Atlanta. Clemons said 470 of the nation’s top teams will be descending on East Cobb for some titanic clashes.

“That’s where our guys find out if they’ve just been a big fish in a small pond,” Clemons said. “They’ll see the very best in the county in their age group and they’ll find out if they’re really pretty good or if they’ve still got a lot of work to do.”

Ailshie was introduced to baseball through East Rowan Diamond Sports when he was 5.

“I wasn’t all that good, actually was pretty terrible, at first,” Ailshie said. “But I did like it a lot. Then I started playing travel ball and liked it even more.”

He had talent and the work ethic to match it.

By the time Ailshie arrived at East Rowan, Coach Hatley knew he had a four-year starter in the outfield.

Ailshie held his own as a varsity freshman in 2023 despite a hip injury that kept him out of the lineup for six games. He batted .321 and scored 20 runs.

Next came a strong “off season” with the South Charlotte Panthers and the local fall league, followed by a pretty incredible sophomore season. Ailshie socked his first homer on March 7 against Robinson. He hit two homers at West Stanly in April 10 to give him six for the regular season.

His other four homers came in the 3A state playoffs — one against St. Stephens, two in the Western Regional series with Tuscola, and the final one in the 3A Championship Series against South Central.

Ailshie batted .500 in the state playoffs with 18 RBIs in nine games. He had a grand slam and nine RBIs in the three-game series with Tuscola. He went 3-for-4 in East’s final game and was voted 3A Championship Series MVP.

For the season, Ailshie batted .422 with 50 runs, nine doubles, 30 walks and 54 RBIs. His on-base percentage was .546. Ailshie has made several All-State teams.

Lineups are connected. The senior hitting in front of Ailshie, Cobb Hightower, broke the state record for runs scored with 62. The senior hitting behind Ailshie, McCall Henderson, broke the county record for RBIs with 57. Ailshie’s success was partly due to them. At the same time, their massive stats were partly due to Ailshie.

Ailshie looks the part of a baseball star. He  has grown to 6-foot-1 now, and while he still appears slim, he weighs 185 pounds, about 20 more than last summer.

Alshie, who also throws left-handed, was the Co-Pitcher of the Year for Rowan County, sharing the Patrick Snider Memorial Award with teammate Dyer. Ailshie was 10-0 in 15 pitching outings. He posted a 1.57 ERA and 79 strikeouts, with four strikeouts for each walk.

Those are fine numbers. Ailshie should be an exceptional high school pitcher for the next two seasons.

“But I’m not really a big velocity guy,” said Ailshie, who tops out at about 81 mph on the mound. “That’s why I believe I’ll be a hitter in college.”

That’s how it looks right now, but Ailshie is certain to add more mph to his fastball as he grows. He has a frame that can add a lot more weight and muscle.

Some believe Ailshie has the potential to be the best ever at East, but Ailshie doesn’t worry about things like that.

His only concern for now is his next at-bat and winning the next game in the next tournament.

“There’s nothing bad that can be said about Ailshie,” said Clemons, who has coached East Rowan graduates and UNC recruits Cameron Padgett and Cobb Hightower with the Panthers. “He’s had the right upbringing. This guy is a really good human being.”