By Mike London
Rowan County American Legion coach Jim Gantt groaned when he learned Randolph County beat Kannapolis 25-0 on Memorial Day.Kannapolis was coming to Newman Park on Tuesday.
“You don’t want to play Duke after they lose in basketball, and you don’t want to play Kannapolis when you know they’ll be mad and ready to play,” Gantt said.
Kannapolis may have been mad after giving up seven home runs Monday, but it made no difference in an early showdown of programs that have combined for seven state-tournament appearances since 2000.
Rowan rolled 11-1 in seven innings over the Wojans, whose super players have moved on. Garrett Sherrill, Ryan Query, Jake Faggart and Jerod Faggart watched from the third-base bleachers last night. “They don’t have some of the good guys they had, but it’s not like that’s a bad team,” Rowan shortstop Justin Roland. “It was just that we got up on them early. That helped everyone play loose.”
The game was basically decided in the bottom of the first inning when division-leading Rowan (3-0, 3-0) scored five runs, three on a towering homer to left by Ross Steedley off young Kannapolis southpaw Matt Mariano.
“That first inning, maybe that got them back down some,” Gantt said.
It had to. Weston Church was on the mound, and he got the visitors down a little more.
Kannapolis had no shortage of baserunners, but Church and shortstop Justin Roland snatched away hope every time Post 115 reached for it.
“That’s a big comfort to go out there with a big lead,” Church said. “Our infield is a great help. Knowing how good they are, I wasjust trying to throw some groundballs.”
Church is a sinkerball pitcher, and sometimes the bouncers will find holes. Two that didn’t led to two double plays that kept Kannapolis (3-4, 2-1) from making it a game.
Kannapolis had two on with no outs in the third, but Aaron Lynch couldn’t get a bunt down. Then he rapped to Roland, who started a routine double play.
“Rowan got some big hits,” Kannapolis coach Empsy Thompson said. “We were able to set the table, but then we couldn’t get that big hit.”
Roland made an ungodly play in the sixth when Andrew Lawing whacked one deep in the hole with the bases loaded and one out.
Roland got to the ball sliding on his knees and still made a quick, accurate throw to second baseman Micah Jarrett. Jarrett made a nice turn, and first baseman Trey Holmes stretched. Rowan got the bang-bang call at first base and a twin killing that took what life was left out of Kannapolis.
“That was an amazing play, but Roland is unbelievable and he just keeps getting better,” Church said.
Gantt was afraid Rowan had “hit and quit” after its early explosion, but Church’s double started a two-run third. A Kannapolis error on D.C. Cranford’s sacrifice bunt opened the door for two runs in the sixth. Rowan got two more to end the game in the seventh with Jarrett’s infield hit, a hit batsman and three walks.
Roland ó who produced two hits, two walks and two RBIs to go with his defense ó walked with the bases full to end the game.”Rowan played a good ballgame; give them all the credit in the world,” Thompson said. “But it’s just one loss. It hurts to lose like this, but it’s not two wins for them or two losses for us.”n
NOTES: Kannapolis outfielder Alex Edwards tumbled over first base in the second with a hamstring injury. … Steedley just missed a homer in his second at-bat. It was barely foul down the left-field line. … Church has never lost on the mound to an Area III team. .. Kannapolis is 9-7 against Rowan the past five seasons. … Rowan plays Surry at home tonight.
Contact Mike London at 704-797-4259 or email@example.com.
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