Legion Baseball: Rowan turns close game into seven-inning win
By Mike London
WILKESBORO ó Rowan County pitcher Matt Hall was Matt Hall of Fame on Thursday, and his team needed him to be.
Hall, a 2007 East graduate, pitched six shutout innings and struck out 11 to lead Rowan to an 11-0, seven-inning victory over Southern Division foe Wilkes County (2-12, 2-7).
“Where that came from, I don’t really know,” a grinning Hall said. “I was just feeling good tonight. Walks have been killing me. I’d walk somebody, get frustrated and just lose it. But that didn’t happen this time.”
He walked only one.
As good as Hall was, it was one of the closest 11-0 games in history. Through six innings, the outcome was very much in doubt, but Rowan scored nine two-out runs in the seventh to blow it wide open.
Rowan had outscored Wilkes by a combined 65-0 in the previous four matchups, but this one was different.
“It was certainly a different game than the final score,” Rowan coach Jim Gantt said. “Their pitcher (Noah Johnson) just went to work whenever we had men on base. He located very well, threw it where his catcher wanted it and made it a game.”
You could fry an egg on Rowan first baseman Trey Holmes’ bat. He had four hits and four RBIs for the second straight night. Billy Veal and Austin Shull had two hits each for Rowan (14-4, 6-4). Both of Shull’s hits came in the nine-run inning.
Second baseman Philip Miclat had a great night with the glove while right fielder Zach Smith took away two hits. Smith fielded routine “singles” and fired to get a forceout at second base in the first inning and a runner at first base to end the game.
Miclat scored on a wild pitch in the first, and Holmes drove home Justin Roland with a groundout in the fifth to give Rowan a 2-0 lead, but that was all the offense it mustered against Johnson through six innings.
“He was sneaky fast and held us down,” Miclat said. “We were like, ‘Wow, six innings and we’ve only got two runs on the board.’ ”
Then in the bottom of the sixth, things got tense in a hurry.
Hall started the frame with his 10th strikeout, but the batter reached when the high pitch glanced off Shull’s mitt. When the next two batters singled, the red, white and blue Patriots had the bases loaded with none out.
Chris Pruitt had the next at-bat, and it was the game’s biggest. He sent a high pop into foul territory down the right-field line. It looked like it would fall, but Miclat came streaking over, gloved the ball, held on and made an acrobatic, spinning throw to hold the runners.
“I’m still learning second base,” said Miclat, who played shortstop at West Rowan and would play shortstop on just about any team that doesn’t have Justin Roland. “I like second, though. You get to make a lot of plays that make you look pretty good.”
A squeeze bunt followed, and it was Hall’s turn to make a great play. He scooped the ball and shoveled it to Shull in the same motion for a forceout at home. Then Hall ended the inning with a strikeout that deflated Wilkes.
Johnson ran out of gas in the seventh. Shull singled to start the inning, and Trey Holmes, Veal, Noah Holmes, Russell Michalec and Smith delivered consecutive two-out hits to make it 6-0. When Justin Mock’s flyball was dropped in center, two more runs scored. After that, it was a total collapse.
With Cody Laws pitching, Rowan nearly turned an amazing 3-6-4 double play in the seventh.
Trey Holmes fielded a grounder wide of the bag and threw to Roland covering second for a force. When Laws was slow getting to first, Miclat scampered over to take Roland’s return throw and just missed getting the out.
“I think I touched that runner’s sleeve with the tag,” Miclat said. “That woulda been the play of the year. If we’d made that one, I think I woulda just walked off the field.”