Legion Baseball: Rowan loses to Randolph
By David Shaw
Thank goodness Jim Gantt has never had his honesty gland removed.
With the playoffs set to begin next week, the Rowan County American Legion coach thinks his team needs a wakeup call.
“And hopefully this was it,” he said after Monday’s unsightly 14-10 non-league loss to Randolph at Newman Park. “We don’t seem to have much energy and something’s got to flip a switch. I don’t think just going to the playoffs will turn it on. I think we’ve needed a wakeup call all year.”
Despite committing four errors and yielding 15 hits, Rowan (18-7 overall) remained anchored in third place in the Southern Division standings with a 10-5 record. Its closing week includes tonight’s home game against Lexington, a forfeit from Wilkes and Thursday’s regular-season finale at South Rowan. Postseason play begins July 7.
“Yeah, but if we keep playing like we’re playing now, we won’t go far in the playoffs,” said relief pitcher Cody Laws. “We’re not playing to our potential defensively or mentally.”
Gantt, for one, is making a list and checking it twice. Other than the scoreless seventh inning that Laws tossed, Rowan’s pitching was mostly ineffective. Randolph (20-5) stroked six extra-base hits ó five doubles and Josh Hohn’s game-turning three-run homer off Trey Holmes in the top of the eighth.
“I made some pitches I shouldn’t have made in those situations,” said Holmes, who was waxed for five runs on five hits in one inning. “And they took advantage. They’re a good team.”
Randolph was good enough to reel off an 11-game winning streak earlier this season. Post 45 has prevailed in 13 of its last 15 matches. But coach Ronnie Pugh knows all about wakeup calls.
“We got ours last week,” he said, a reference to Randolph’s 12-5 loss to High Point on Saturday. “So we know the feeling. They were good hitters, but we just didn’t compete.”
They’re back on course after last night’s win. Randolph overcame a 9-5 fifth-inning deficit and dug its way out of a 10-8 hole in the eighth.
“I don’t know if it’s a big deal or not,” Gantt said. “We had a chance to beat a good team in a non-league game. They’re very dangerous. They’re capable of hurting you in a lot of ways. If you play poorly against a good team, you’re gonna lose.”
There were some bright spots for Rowan. Holmes and outfielder Billy Veal each crushed long home runs. And Philip Miclat went 3-for-5, knocked in two runs and took over the team lead with 23 RBIs. And Laws, who didn’t retire a batter in last week’s victory at Lexington, was sharper on the mound.
“It felt good to come back,” he said after lowering his ERA to 4.11. “I wasn’t hitting my spots the last game. This game I got ground balls and threw strikes.”
But in the end, this one left a sour taste in Rowan’s mouth.
“It seemed like if we made an error tonight, it was magnified,” Gantt said. “If we walked a guy, it was magnified. And going into the playoffs, you don’t want to make bad plays and walk people and make bad pitches.”
NOTES: Right-hander Tanner Brown ( 5-1, 4.17) starts tonight against first-place Lexington. He has a streak of 11 scoreless innings.