Baseball’s top 11 for 2007
By Mike London
The biggest local baseball stories in 2007 were created by the boys of summer.
Rowan County’s American Legion team returned to the top of the Southern Division of Area III standings for the first time since the 2002 state-championship run and filled the bleachers at Newman Park.
Rowan’s most thrilling games were a road loss at Randolph County and a setback to Cherryville in the state tournament, but coach Jim Gantt’s crew owned June and July. While Rowan finished 40-8, it was 37-2 at one point and earning comparisons to the 2002 squad.
Veteran pitchers Keegan Linza, Cy Young and Lee Dupre combined for 23 wins. Trey Holmes’ majestic walk-off grand slam that ended a home game with South Rowan by the 10-run rule was a highlight, as was Young’s opening-night shutout of Mooresville.
South’s Legion squad wasn’t as deep as Rowan’s, but coach David Wright’s team shocked the world often on its way to a program-record 26 victories. The season ended with a heartbreaking loss to Randolph, but South’s playoff run produced one riveting game after another. Daniel Wagner, Rudy Brown and Walker Snow proved they were three of the best ever to play for South.
All the Rowan high schools, including first-year Carson, qualified for the state playoffs. Wild-card entry Salisbury lasted longest, stunning Bandys with three home runs and reaching the third round.
Davie County won the Cliff Peeler Easter tournament.
Catawba was good again, batting .333 as a team and winning 32 games. The high walls at Newman Park failed to contain outfielders Jerry Sands and David Thomas and pitcher-turned-slugger Zach Evans. The trio belted 48 homers.
The 12 most memorable games of 2007 …No. 12
Salisbury 2, West 1
April 6, Robertson StadiumSalisbury’s win against the Falcons in the opening round of the Cliff Peeler Easter Classic was one for the books.
The Hornets beat West on a strikeout ó by their own hitter. Forrest Buchanan whiffed on a 1-2 slider in the dirt, but he hustled to first as Robbie Ijames raced home with the winning run.
No. 11Kannapolis Legion 20, Statesville 8
June 14, Statesville
Even perpetually upbeat Kannapolis coach Empsy Thompson wanted to cry. Kannapolis’ eight-run ninth inning came too late for the 10-run rule and added an hour to what was already a soggy, miserable marathon. Twenty spectators, counting two sportswriters, watched nine innings, 16 errors and 17 walks. Four of those innings were played in a downpour that would have frightened Noah.
Kannapolis relief pitcher Jay Hosack will never forget it. With many teammates at the beach, he was called on to toil the last 81/3 innings.
No. 10Carson 11, North 7
Feb. 27, China Grove
Pretty it wasn’t, but the Cougars can always brag they won the first official baseball game in school history.
North threw it around, and Carson scored six times in the first inning. Carson expanded its lead to 10-2, and Snow and Cameron Park made it hold up.
No. 9Rowan Legion 9, Morehead City 2
August 8, GarnerRowan capitalized on walks and wild pitches and breezed past the defending state champs in the first round of the state tournament. Young did the job on the mound one more time. Rowan was on top of the world, but an 8-7 loss to Cherryville ó after Rowan led 6-1 ó was just around the corner.
No. 8North 10, Central Davidson 8
March 27, LexingtonThe Cavs’ finest hours in a roller-coaster season came in this road game in Central’s homer haven. North trailed early, rallied to take control, blew the lead, then pulled it out in the ninth.
It scored the winning runs on doubles by Joe Kesler and Justin Mock and a homer by Jacob Dobbins. Billy Veal had four hits and threw seven innings. Nick Smith got the final out with the bases full.
No. 7Mocksville Legion 1, South Rowan 0
July 1, Landis
The first 1-0 game in South history lasted 1 hour, 52 minutes. Brown and Mocksville right-hander John McDaniel threw complete games. McDaniel fanned 10 and didn’t walk a batter.
No. 6South 5, West Forsyth 4April 27, Landis
South reversed a 17-0 road loss to the CPC champions with a Senior Night upset.
Jordan Lowder’s pitching and Caleb Shore’s seventh-inning single decided it.
No. 5East 6, Carson 5
April 6, Robertson Stadium
Carson catcher Zack Bottenfield’s chest protector emerged as the star of this Easter tournament game when a pitch hit the dirt and got stuck in his equipment with the bases loaded in the seventh.
East coach Brian Hightower, who has memorized the rule book, screamed “lodged ball,” and watched the plate umpire wave home the winning run.
No. 4East 5, Davie 4
March 19, Mando Field
Two good teams took turns giving away runs in a nine-inning affair filled with arguments and controversial calls.
Corbin Shive finally won it on the mound and at the plate, but it was a painful victory. Micah Jarrett missed the game with an injured wrist, Holmes didn’t pitch the rest of the year after hurting his elbow on a slide and Justin Roland broke his hand on a liner back to the mound.No. 3South Legion 8, Kannapolis 5
July 10, Veterans Field
Brown had a ridiculous number of game-deciding hits for South, but the most memorable was his top-of-the-ninth grand slam that beat Kannapolis and gave his team a 2-0 lead against the defending Area III champions in a first-round playoff series.
Kannapolis, which got five hits from Aaron Lynch, tried to rally in the bottom of the ninth, but South center fielder Justin Lane ended the game with a running catch and sprinted to the dugout without breaking stride.
No. 2Catawba 6, Tampa 5
Feb. 11, Tampa, Fla.
Catawba beat Tampa, the top-ranked team in Division II, behind the pitching of Paul Link and Evans and the big bat of Sands.
The Indians salvaged a game in the four-game series after losing to the defending national champions in three close contests. Tampa went on to win another national title.
No. 1East 13, Davie 9
March 28, Staton Field
East center fielder D.C. Cranford’s slump ended with a historic game.
East trailed 9-3 after Davie’s eight-run fifth all but emptied the bleachers. Cranford said Staton Field sounded like a cemetery, but he got people clapping. His grand slam capped a six-run sixth that pulled East even at 9-9.
In the bottom of the seventh, Cranford came to the plate again after an intentional walk to Matt Hall loaded the bases.
He made it back-to-back slams.
His walk-off blast cleared the fence in left and provided the most memorable baseball moment of the year.
Contact Mike London at 704-797-4259 or firstname.lastname@example.org.