Legion Baseball Playoffs: Southern Rowan ousted

Southern Rowan coach Ben Hampton tries to encourage his dejected players at the end of Friday's game. Photo by PJ Ward-Brown, Salisbury Post
Southern Rowan coach Ben Hampton tries to encourage his dejected players at the end of Friday's game. Photo by PJ Ward-Brown, Salisbury Post

LANDIS — The P.A. system sounded a cavalry bugle call as the bottom of the 10th inning started, but the only place Southern Rowan was charging was into a premature offseason.

A season that started out with a 5-1 record, ended, ironically enough, with a 5-1, 10-inning loss to visiting Stanly County on Friday.

Stanly now has won 11 of 15 playoff meetings with Southern Rowan, including six in a row.

“It was a hard one for us to lose,” said Southern pitcher John Daugherty, who hurled nine innings with no earned runs and no decision. “I pitched OK. Stanly has a tough lineup and a very good team.”

Stanly (15-9) swept a homerless, small-ball, best-of-five series 4-2, 6-2 and 5-1, out-defending and out-bunting the higher-seeded Southern Rowan squad that finished 13-11.

After Stanly dodged disaster in the eighth and ninth, Cody McKenzie delivered a tiebreaking single in the 10th off reliever Tyler Sides, and Stanly piled on after that.

“In every game this series we got an excellent performance from our starting pitcher,” SR coach Ben Hampton said. “Dillon Atwell and Dillon Parker, and then John was good tonight. But Stanly is scrappy, they won’t beat themselves, and they execute. They executed at the plate, and we didn’t, and that’s what this series really boiled down to.”

An error helped Stanly score a run in the third, and starter Carson Sells maintained that 1-0 lead until Heath Blackmon relieved him in the sixth.

Southern broke through to tie at 1-all in the seventh after Connor Bridges bunted for a hit, and then continued to second on a throwing error. Jacob Fulton bunted Bridges to third, and Bridges scored when Blackmon dropped the ball for a balk.

Southern Rowan had seven hits, ztwo each by Dylan Carpenter and Dylan Goodman.

Southern had a chance to go in front in the eighth when Carpenter opened with an infield hit, but Bryson Prugh popped up a bunt attempt. Then, with Carpenter on the move, Goodman’s bouncer up the middle was an easy 6-3 DP for Stanly’s standout shortstop McKenzie.

“Led him right to the bag,” Hampton groaned. “But if we can get the bunt down in front of Goody, that grounder is probably a hit for the lead.”

The Southern ninth was even more frustrating. When Daugherty walked and both runners were safe on Parker’s bunt, SR had two on with none out, and Stanly coach Derek Barringer turned to ace Russ Weiker in a situation where Stanly needed Ks. Bridges sacrificed, advancing both runners. Fulton, batting ninth, was up next, and Stanly went with an unusual alignment with five infielders in tight behind Weiker, one of the state’s top pitchers.

“When you play a series, you get to know an opponent and you know matchups and tendencies,” Barringer said. “With a base open, you might walk the next guy, but it’s all about matchups. With where they were in the lineup, and with (Ben) Gragg on deck, we went after the hitter.”

Hampton called for a suicide squeeze on the second pitch. Fulton bunted through it, and Daugherty, breaking down the line from third, was an easy, deflating out.

“Jake got bunts down all year, so we were very comfortable with him at the plate in that situation,” Hampton said. “It just didn’t work out this time, but that play isn’t what lost the ballgame. We didn’t execute all night, and when you’re in a lull hitting the ball, you have to execute.”

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