By Mike London
LANDIS ó South Rowan southpaw Rudy Brown and second baseman Daniel Wagner watched helplessly as Stanly County swept their teammates in the second round of the American Legion playoffs last summer.
Brown’s lethal left arm was spent deciding a first-round series with Lexington, and Wagner was crippled with a badly sprained ankle.
Both college players are back in red uniforms, and they sparked South Rowan to a 4-2 victory over Stanly on Monday. Brown pitched eight innings. Wagner had three hits and drove in two runs.
It was South’s best win of the summer and its first over an upper-tier team.Kannapolis (8-4), South (7-6, 6-3) and Stanly (7-3, 6-3) are now tied for third place.
“Before the game, we talked about Stanly beating us in the playoffs, but they didn’t see me,” Brown said. “That had me pumped up.”
Pumped up or not, Matt Burleson greeted Brown with a homer to open the game. Brown’s no-hitter and shutout were gone in a hurry.
“Uh, oh, a home run to start off, but I don’t want people to look out there and think I’m ever going to be giving up,” Brown said. “I didn’t have my stuff, had my curveball only here and there, but I battled from that first inning on.”
Brown, who was 4-4 while leading Surry Community College in strikeouts, also allowed a fifth-inning RBI single to Kyle McGarity, but he faced only 10 batters while craftily zipping his way through the sixth, seventh and eighth.
Shortstop Matt Ingold, Wagner and first baseman Ivan Corriher helped out Brown (3-0) with a sharp double play in the seventh.
“Brown was good, and South bunted well,” Stanly coach Marko Little said. “But we’re not doing many good things. We’ve lost three of four, and we’re not playing well at all. South’s better than we are.”
South needed Brown’s heroics because Stanly had Lenoir-Rhyne’s Justin Crowell on the mound. Crowell, who fanned eight and walked one in a complete-game effort, was the SAC Freshman Pitcher of the Year.
“With those two college pitchers on the hill, you expected a 4-2 ballgame with not a lot of hits,” South coach David Wright said. “Rudy’s gave us good innings all year, but on a muggy night like this, we had to make adjustments and pitch to contact more. Rudy was heart, and the guys made the plays behind him.”
South tied the score in the bottom of the first when Justin Lane singled, moved to third on passed balls and scored on Wagner’s groundout.
South was fortunate to score twice and claim a 3-1 lead in the fourth. Ryan Bostian trickled a single through the right side to score Ingold. Wagner chopped a single over first base to score Lane.
Wagner, who hit better than .300 as a Belmont freshman, singled in the seventh for his 99th career hit ó 15 shy of Brett Shore’s program record. Brown helped himself with a two-out single that scored Wagner for South’s final run.
Stanly played unbelievable defense late. Right fielder Jordan Sells made a leaping catch to end the seventh. In the same inning, diving shortstop Burleson made a big-league play to rob Jonathon Basinger.
In the eighth, McGarity may not have caught Corriher’s liner to center, but he went airborne, smothered the ball and successfully sold an out to the umpiring crew. The Stanly ninth provided excitement. South reliever Walker Snow allowed the tying runs to reach base, but Sells flied to Lane to end the game.
Snow saved Brown’s eighth Legion win. Only Andrew Morgan, who won 20, has racked up more for South.”If you do things right, you can beat even the good baseball teams,” Wright said. n
Contact Mike London at email@example.com.
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