05/27/10 — Rosewood-Dixon

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By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on May 27, 2010 1:47 PM

HOLLY RIDGE -- Two eastern North Carolina communities steeped in athletics tradition and starved for three-plus decades to produce a first-ever state champion in baseball meet head-to-head tonight.

Rosewood and Dixon square off for Game 1 in their best-of-three, N.C. High School Athletic Association 1-A eastern regional series on the Bulldogs' diamond. First pitch is 6 p.m.

Game 2 is Friday and the "if" game is Saturday. Each contest starts at 7 p.m.

The winner opposes either Bishop McGuinness or West Wilkes in a best-of-three, state championship series next week at an undetermined site.

"It's an exciting experience for us and this is as far as the program has been in a long time," said second-year Rosewood head coach Jason King. "I think the boys are going to be up for the game. We're anxious to go ahead and get started."

The Eagles (18-6 overall) are making their first appearance in a regional championship since 1978 when they competed in the old Wilson-Edgecombe-Wayne-Johnston Conference. Lucama defeated Rosewood that season and knocked off Prospect in the 1-A state finals.

Dixon's last trip to the regionals occurred in 1977 when it advanced to the 2-A state finals and dropped a two-game series to Monroe Sun Valley.

Since then, each program has assembled conference title teams that have struggled to reach this point. Dixon (21-4) has won three consecutive Coastal Plains crowns, but endured opening-round losses in 2008 and 2009.

Rosewood fell in the third round a year ago.

"We knew coming off last year that we had so much coming back, if we could put together some team chemistry and everyone play for each other, we had a shot to go a long way," said King. "We made it our goal to win the conference championship and go one round further in the playoffs. Once we did that, I said 'guys, the sky's the limit.'

"We can go as far as we want to go."

Standing in the Eagles' way are two Bulldog hurlers -- junior right-hander Rookie Davis and senior right-hander Patrick Batchelor. Ironically, their fathers played on the 1977 team that reached the state finals.

Davis, who has committed to East Carolina, is 10-3 this season with a 1.40 earned run average. He's logged 155 strikeouts in 78 innings of work and has helped himself offensively with 11 home runs.

Batchelor is 11-1 and has been equally impressive with a 3.00 ERA and 90 punchouts in 71 innings. His solo home run helped Dixon eliminate Gates County in eastern semifinal-round play Tuesday.

As a team, the Dogs have five players batting .300 or higher.

"We know they're a solid baseball team ... can hit, play defense," said King. "Once you get to this point in the playoffs, everybody is going to be good. You have to be on top of your game and not make any mistakes, if possible."

Rosewood plans to counter with Will Beasley in Game 1 tonight and will throw senior right-hander Matt Neal in Game 2. The Eagles carry a 12-game win streak into the regional series.

Dixon has won nine in a row.

"We have to hit the ball, put pressure on the defense and no doubt, we have to get a couple of good efforts on the mound," said King. "We have to keep down their offense and when they put it in play, we have to make the plays we need to make to be successful.

"If we do that, we'll have as good a chance as they do (to win)."