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Legion Baseball: Rowan 12, Kernersville 8

By Bret Strelow
Salisbury Post
KERNERSVILLE ó East Rowan players made an impact after all.Rowan County opened its American Legion season with a 12-8 win against Kernersville Post 36 even though coach Jim Gantt had only three reserves at his disposal on the road Friday night.
Rowan debuted without several standouts from East’s varsity squad, which evened its 3A state semifinal series Friday in Granite Quarry. Gantt’s thin roster included four individuals who played in a Junior Legion game Wednesday and practiced with the senior team for the first time Thursday.Parker Gobbel, Luke Thomas and Chris Jacobs ó underclassmen who were members of East’s jayvee team ó started and made significant contributions in the seven-inning game against Kernersville (1-2).”We surprised ourselves, honestly,” said first baseman Russell Michalec, who went 4-for-5 and scored twice. “I played with a lot of them last year in Junior Legion, and I knew a lot of them had potential.”Kernersville erased a 5-1 deficit in the third inning, when Brandon Harrison hit a three-run triple and chugged home after the throw to third bounced off his foot.
Rowan answered with a seven-run outburst in the top of the fourth. The first two of four walks in the inning from Harrison helped load the bases for Michalec. Jacobs scored on a single, and Harrison issued bases-loaded walks to Justin Mock and Matt Hall.
Billy Veal followed with an RBI groundout, and Gobbel knocked in two runs with a triple.
Gobbel, who earned the mound win in relief of Hall, went 2-for-4 at the plate and scored two runs.
“It’s sort of weird because I never expected to get called up like this,” Gobbel said.
Gobbel, Thomas and Jacobs filled the final three spots in Rowan’s batting order.
Veal walked with one out in the second inning, and the trio produced three consecutive singles. Thomas drove in Veal for Rowan’s first run, and Gobbel scored on Jacobs’ hit. Jacobs, who stole two bases in the game, sprinted home on a wild pitch to cap a three-run frame.
“The varsity has got a lot of our guys, and they’re real good up there,” Gobbel said. “It was real nice to see us do good like that.”
Gobbel and Jacobs, who started in the outfield, are both sophomores. Tyler King, the leadoff hitter for West Rowan’s varsity team as a sophomore, replaced Veal at second base and made two nice catches.
Thomas, a 14-year-old freshman at East, went the distance behind the plate. There were no wild pitches or passed balls from Rowan’s battery.
“(Thomas) was the biggest surprise,” Gantt said. “(East coach Brian) Hightower said he was a good receiver, and he was a rock. Guys were able to throw curveballs in the dirt, and he blocked it.
“When a catcher goes unnoticed, he had a great night. For a guy his age, that was outstanding.”
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NOTE: Rowan plays Concord tonight at Central Cabarrus High School.
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Contact Bret Strelow at 704-797-4258 or bstrelow@salisburypost.com.

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