High Point beats Rowan in Legion opener
By Mike London
SALISBURY — Rowan County’s season opened the same way the last one ended — with a two-run loss to High Point — but optimism outweighed pessismism at Newman Park.
Rowan hit well enough to win and fielded well enough to win. The loss could be traced mostly to some youthful pitching jitters.
“We used a lot of young pitchers and nerves go along with pitching at Newman Park in front of a crowd,” second baseman Chase Hathcock said. “I think we’ve got good pitchers, and they’ll do fine.”
Rowan coach Jim Gantt used five hurlers — Joseph Peeler, Harrison Bell, Travis Holshouser, Riley Myers and Brandon White. White and Myers, a five-game winner for Salisbury, held High Point to one run in the last four innings. That gave Rowan a reasonable chance to come back.
“I just got ahead a lot and threw a lot of strikes,” said White, a three-game winner for North Rowan this year.
Gantt explained that Rowan pitchers were instructed not to use any curves or sliders.
“In defense of our pitchers, they didn’t throw a breaking ball all night,” Gantt said. “They were working on changing speeds and controlling their fastballs and changeups.”
Nathan Fulbright, back behind the plate after an all-conference season at Guilford, drove in three runs, while returning first baseman Chance Bowden scored three times. They keyed Rowan’s offense.
Peeler allowed a run in the top of the first, but Rowan got four in the bottom of the inning on back-to-back, two-run doubles by Fulbright and Hathcock. Both balls were stung.
“I was itching to play,” said Hathcock, a former East Rowan standout who spent this season redshirting at Lenoir-Rhyne. “We got some fastballs to hit and were seeing the ball well. We got some big, two-out hits in that first inning, and those are always crucial.”
Rowan’s infield had a scary collision in the second when third baseman Ashton Fleming and shortstop Michael Caldwell crashed into each other trying to field a grounder headed for the hole.
“I’ve been playing shortstop (he was team MVP at Surry Community College), and we both were trying to get to the ball,” Fleming said. “We just have to communicate better.”
Both were able to stay in, and Caldwell, who was down for several minutes, started a 6-4-3 double play moments after he got back on his feet.
Bowden scored on Fulbright’s DP-grounder for a 5-3 Rowan lead in the bottom of the third, but that twin killing was a turning point.
In a crazy High Point fourth, Bell hit four batters with pitches and walked two. High Point scored four times and took the lead for good.
“Bell had two outs and nobody on, and the wheels came off,” Gantt said. “It happens. He’ll get another chance.”
Holshouser got a pitch up in the fifth that Zach MCain whacked for a two-run homer to make it 9-5. Rowan kept scratching and got RBI singles from Fulbright and Ike Freeman to make it close, but Catawba pitcher Tyler Britton saved it for High Point.
“Rowan is a good-hitting team and when we got balls up they got hit hard,” High Point coach Rob Shore said. “But after they got four in the first, we did what we needed to do.”