16th Region baseball semis: Raiders steady ship vs. Vikings

RUSSELL It didn’t take long for East Carter’s offense to get rolling on Tuesday night.

The Raiders came ready to put up runs and it’s a good thing they did because it would take several to get past Rowan County.

“Having 11 seniors, having leadership made the difference,” East Carter coach Jeremiah Shearer said. “Their emotions are high, but they stay focused. That’s just showing good senior leadership. They steadied this ship when we needed to steady it.”

East Carter managed to find the winning formula to get a 7-5 win over the Vikings to advance to the 16th Region championship game.

“It was what we expected,” Rowan County assistant coach Rob Ward said. “We knew East hits well. They’re a well-coached team, and we were going to be in for a dog fight.”

Ward filled in for coach Scott Collins, who was tossed from Monday’s game making him ineligible for Tuesday’s game.

The Raiders managed a run in the top of the first inning with an RBI single from Blake Hall that drove home Ty Scott.

They added four more to that in the top of the second inning.

The first run came from a throwing error to second that opened the door for Evan Goodman, who reached on a standup double, to get home.

The next three came from an error off of Hall’s bat.

Hall hit a little dribbler toward the mound but the throw to first went over the first baseman’s head, allowing the bases to clear, putting the Raiders up 5-0.

The Vikings found an answer in the bottom of the second frame.

“Trying to juggle each inning and trying to win innings is what we always try to do,” Ward said. “That was the biggest thing. We gave up four runs in that second inning. That hurt, but I knew if we had the outs available, our guys were going to hit the ball. We’re going to hit back.”

After Ben Dehart reached on a single, Colby Wilburn knocked it over the left-field wall for a two-run homer to make it a 5-2 game.

Rowan County got another run back in the bottom of the third frame when a sacrifice fly from Abram Norden brought Chance Furnish home.

Ty Scott took that run right back in the top of the fourth with a solo home run to center field to put Ease Carter’s lead at 6-3.

The Raiders put Tate Scott on the mound for Colton McGuire as the game briefly started to look like a home run contest.

Will Richardson got the third of the night when he snuck one over the center-field fence for another Vikings solo homer.

“Colton did a fine job for us, but we wanted to get the ball into a senior’s hands,” Shearer said. “And Tate came in and did great for us and finished strong for us.”

Rowan County made a change on the mound in the fifth. Kevin Lambert entered for Jayson Ingles.

Tate Scott did Lambert no favors, cranking a stand-up double that drove in Goodman, who reached on a hit-by-pitch, to go up 7-4.

“You can see the look in the guys on deck and think you know what’s coming next, but when you see one or two line drives and all of a sudden these guys get a lot of confidence on deck,” Shearer said. “And that gets contagious, so we tend to be able to string a lot of hits together, put a lot of runs on the board, and it’ll take all of that tomorrow against Boyd County.”

Rowan County managed to get a run back in the bottom of the sixth off an RBI single by Hayden Mains.

The Vikings almost had a run before that off a Wilburn double, but Dehart was tagged out at home by Raiders catcher Jaxon Barker.

Rowan County fans were not too pleased with the call, so they let umpire Mike Salmons know about it. It eventually led to a fan ejection over the call.

Trailing 7-5, the Vikings managed to get a runner to third, but that was as close as they would get to the plate as Tate Scott sealed the win with a strikeout.

Despite the loss, Ward said this team will always have each other’s backs.

“A lot of these guys have been starters for four years,” Ward said. “They’ve put their blood, sweat and tears into this team and into this program. We’re a band of brothers and we’ve been together for a long time. We’re family. My kid comes out to practices and comes out to the games. They’ve helped raise my kid. That’s family.”

As the Raiders celebrated the win, shouts of “Job’s not done yet,” came from the players who were obviously excited over the night’s win, but mindful that there’s one more game between them and the region title.

“They’re such a tight group of guys and a fun group to coach,” Shearer said. “They know the job’s not done yet. We just need to stay focused, not too high, not too low. Just stick to the same routine and take care of business.”

E. CARTER 140 110 0 — 7 10 0

ROWAN CO. 021 101 0 — 5 7 5

McGuire, Ta. Scott (4) and Barker; Ingles, Lambert (5) and Furnish. W — McGuire. L — Ingles. 2B — Goodman (EC), Ta. Scott (EC), Wilburn (RC). HR — Wilburn (RC), Ty Scott (EC), Richardson (EC).