By Mike London
KANNAPOLIS ó A high percentage of the Rowan County players who filed away from Veterans Field were nursing new bruises.A Rowan trip to Kannapolis rarely results in a routine outing, and Tuesday’s was no exception.
Lee Dupre, Keegan Linza and Matt Hall combined on a 5-0 shutout that was almost overshadowed by seven Rowan hitters being hit by pitches. Ross Steedley earned a special badge of honor. He wore two offerings from Kannapolis starter Jacob Wright, who had six HBPs but was otherwise strong.A 50-minute lightning delay in the bottom of the seventh added spice. It never rained and lightning never seriously threatened, but at the rate hitters were being struck it made sense not to tempt Mother Nature’s bolts.
Rowan (16-1, 11-1) managed five hits and did enough to win its 10th straight.
“Wright was just a little wild,” said Rowan’s Weston Church, who took a pitch off his helmet in the fifth. “Sometimes that can be to your advantage, but he was putting so many on base, we were finally able to cash in.”A key moment came early. Kannapolis, eager to avenge an 11-1 loss at Newman Park, greeted Dupre with back-to-back, first-inning singles.Alex Edwards then sent a line drive up the middle that lodged in Dupre’s glove. A stunned Dupre had the presence of mind to throw to shortstop Justin Roland to double Brett Honeycutt off second.
“Alex hit it hard, and it could have been huge for us to score first,” Kannapolis coach Empsy Thompson said. “But Dupre makes a good reactionary play.”
Rowan coach Jim Gantt also saw Edwards’ liner as one of the pivotal plays.
“The key for Lee is always to get a little confidence,” he said. “Edwards darn near killed him, but that play gave him a chance to settle in.”
Wright matched zeroes with Dupre through four innings. In the fifth, Roland reached on an error and journeyed around the bases on a balk and two wild pitches.
Rowan’s three-run sixth was critical. When Wright fielded Joe Kesler’s comebacker, he had a chance for an inning-killing double play, but he bounced his throw to second. Shortstop Aaron Lynch had to scoop and try to establish control as Steedley slid in safely.Justin Mock’s perfect bunt filled the bases, and D.C. Cranford accepted a walk to make it 2-0. Roland’s sac fly made it 3-0, and Church’s single to right bumped the lead to 4-0.
“My first two times up, he got me out with runners on base because I tried to do too much,” said Church, who entered the game batting .500. “That time I was thinking backside, just a little base hit, and I got it.”Mock’s two-out double knocked in Micah Jarrett in the seventh for a 5-0 lead.
Dupre had to work out of jams in the fifth and sixth. Linza got an out with the bases loaded shortly after the game resumed in the seventh, and Hall worked a 1-2-3 ninth.
“Kannapolis’ lineup is different than last year, but it’s good, especially the leadoff man (Honeycutt),” Dupre said. “Fortunately, I had my curveball early and was throwing it for a lot of strikes.”
Dupre is 4-0 this summer and 14-2 for his Legion career.
Rowan swept a home-and-home series from Kannapolis (9-8, 8-5) for the first time since 2000. It was Kannapolis’ first home loss inside the division.
Contact Mike London at 704-797-4259 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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