East Rowan plays long ball to earn first state championship trip in 14 years

As you approach Staton Field in Granite Quarry, you are first greeted by signs that honor past regional and state championship teams at East Rowan. For the last fourteen years, those signs have remained untouched.

Until now.

Within the walls of one of North Carolina’s most iconic high school baseball cathedrals now resides the 2024 3A western regional champions. As they have all year, the Mustangs tapped into their power and flexed their depth to earn a 6-3 series clinching victory over Tuscola.

Harrison Ailshie went yard and drove in four. McCall Henderson left no doubt about who was going home with the regional final trophy thanks to a titanic shot over the right field scoreboard in the third.

Joe Burleyson went the distance on the mound, and limited the Mountaineers to just one hit until the seventh inning. He struck out five and allowed one walk.

Tuscola picked up that one hit three batters into the game.

Amos Rich peppered a two-run double down the third base line. Jed West and Kolt Nelson crossed to pick up what would be a short-lived 2-0 lead.

East Rowan showed that the top of its order could pack a punch as well. Braden Shive and Cobb Hightower both singled with one out in the home half of the first. Ailshie deposited the second pitch that he saw over the wall in right to give the Mustangs the lead for good.

When that part of the order found its way back to the plate in the third, the floodgates opened. Hightower kickstarted a two-out rally with a double to left. Ailshie singled him home with a base hit to center.

Henderson got the green light on a 3-0 count and demolished a two-run blast to right that inflated the score to 6-2.

Back to the top of the Tuscola first inning–– the final three men to hit in that frame were all set down by Burleyson. It started a stretch of 18 consecutive batters retired.

After the six perfect frames, Evan Connor opened the seventh with a base hit to left. Tyler Williams got in on the rally with a one-out single to center to cut the deficit to 6-3, but that’s as close as the Mountaineers would get.

Next weekend, the Mustangs will face South Central in the 3A title series. The Falcons completed a two-game sweep of Terry Sanford on Thursday night. Much like East Rowan, South Central spent its regional series muscling up on home run balls.

On Monday, the N.C. High School Athletic Association will announce the game times and locations for the championship series. The games will be played in either Burlington or Holly Springs. HighSchoolOT.com will have coverage from both locations on Friday and Saturday.

Source: highschoolot.com