Written by Corbett Smith
Rockwall stays calm and cool, collects bi-district win over Rowlett
WYLIE — Rockwall coach Jeff Payne didn’t relish having to play a one-game series to open the Class 5A playoffs, but he wasn’t worried about his team getting too tight before its Region II bi-district game against Rowlett.
“That’s been their thing all year; sometimes they’re too loose, and look like they aren’t ready or into it, no energy and stuff like that,” Payne said. “It works out in the playoffs when the pressure’s on, because they never look nervous.”
Junior pitcher Carter Lilly exemplified that coolness, getting out of a bases-loaded jam in the seventh inning with a ground out and strikeout, as Rockwall advanced with a 4-1 win.
Lilly pitched a complete game, striking out 10 and allowing just five hits.
“Not surprised a bit,” Payne said. “That’s what he’s done most of the year.”
Rockwall (27-6), No. 9 in the final SportsDayHS rankings, will face the winner of the three-game series between McKinney and Jesuit that begins Thursday.
Rowlett (12-17-1) had only two runners reach second base against Lilly until the seventh inning, when Lilly allowed a single, a walk and a hit-by-pitch to the first four batters.
His final out was fitting, however, changing speeds to induce Rowlett’s Sean Moore to strike out.
“My curve was tight tonight,” Lilly said. “It looked like it landed in the strike zone every time I threw it.”
Lilly had the luxury of pitching with the lead for most of the game. Third baseman Brad Barnett ripped an outside fastball to deep left field for a two-run double in the second inning.
“When we got up 2-0, I didn’t think it was over, but I felt really, really good about it,” Payne said.
Barnett, showing a lack of nerves and a wealth of bravado, was even more certain after his hit.
“I knew we would take care of business,” Barnett said.
Follow Corbett Smith on Twitter at @corbettsmithDMN