Legion Baseball: Rowan 9, Lexington 6
By Mike London
LANDIS ó Shortstop Matt Ingold charged hard, fired an off-balance strike to first baseman Ivan Corriher, and South Rowan finally nailed down the last out of Thursday’s 9-6 victory over Lexington-Davidson.
But not before giving its fans a serious scare. South coach David Wright joked that things got tight “so we could sell a few more concessions,” but things were mighty shaky at the end.
“We had chances to finish Lexington off (by the 10-run rule) in the seventh and eighth,” Wright said. “We didn’t do it, and they about beat us.”
Fourth-seeded South dominated until it tensed up and struggled late. South led 9-1 going to the ninth, but Lexington actually got the tying run to the plate before reliever Weston Church retired Matt Tysinger on a whistling liner to center that was caught by Ryan Bostian and got Jarrett Albright to hit a tantalizingly slow roller that Ingold scooped and turned into a scary out.”Zach Wright had pitched such a great game, I was just trying to make a play to get him the win,” Ingold said. “We really needed to make a play.”
South (20-13) forced top-seeded Lexington (24-8) to play a decisive Game 5 at Holt-Moffitt Field tonight. Catawba signee Clay Watson (6-1) will be on the mound for Lexington, with Catawba rising sophomore Church (4-0) the probable starter for South.
Wright (3-3) gave South a chance to win the series with the best outing of his Legion career. His teammates got him four runs in the first inning, and he took a no-hitter into the sixth against a powerful lineup. He still had a two-hit gem heading to the ninth, and all the runs Post 8 scored against him were unearned.
“We put all those runs on the board early and were looking good,” Wright said. “That made it easy for me to pitch well. I’ve been working on location a lot with Goody (pitching coach Brian Goodnight) and I hit my spots.”
Church’s two-run single keyed South’s four-run first. Lexington lefty Kelly Secrest settled in after that. South didn’t score again until Caleb Shore’s sacrifice fly scored Brett Huffman for a 5-1 lead in the sixth.
South finally knocked out Secrest in the seventh, and the second batter reliever Jordan Hedrick faced was Randy Shepherd, who crushed a majestic, three-run homer. Lexington center fielder Jordan Hudson took one look and knew there was no reason to chase.
“That felt so good, and it was the right situation to do it,” said Shepherd who has been shut down pitching-wise but now leads South with eight homers. “C.J. Neal’s grandpa still comes to all of our games (an injury ended Neal’s summer) and he promised me he’d go get the ball and give me $50 if I’d hit one for him. I was glad I could.”
Neal’s grandfather was $50 poorer, but South had an 8-1 lead and a chance to close things out early. It added one more run on Maverick Miles’ bases-loaded walk, but it left the bases full in the seventh and the eighth against Lexington’s third hurler, Michael Pilcher.
Wright was cruising and appeared a lock to toss a complete game, but four of the first five batters in the ninth reached ó two on errors.
Hudson’s perfect bunt single made it 9-4, Luke Wilhelm walked, and Zack Briggs ripped a single to center that Ingold got a glove on but couldn’t control. Briggs’ hit made it 9-6, and Zach Wright’s night was over. Then Church was able to save it.
“Zach Wright did a great job for them,” Lexington coach Matt Griffin said. “The first three innings we didn’t have good swings at all against him, but from that point on we did have pretty good at-bats and hit a lot of balls hard that were just at people. I was proud we kept battling, and there in the ninth, we were finally getting some balls to fall in and we made it a game.”
The home team has won every game in the series, and South’s park, with its deep fences in center and right-center aided the home team. Bostian made a running catch in the fifth on a blast by Ben Redmond that would have been a homer just about anywhere else, and Grubb crushed a pitch in the seventh that was only a 400-foot double instead of a home run.
South has outscored Lexington in the series 35-24, but Lexington has prevailed in two one-run games at Holt-Moffitt Field. Lexington came back when it looked beaten in Game 1 and survived Game 3 when South left 15 on base.
“We could’ve won all four, probably should’ve won all four,” Ingold said.
Whoever wins tonight has a tough assignment. The survivor goes straight into a third-round series with talented Randolph County on Saturday.
“It’s been a tough series ó our kids have battled and Matt’s kids have battled,” David Wright said. “I feel for both teams right now, but we’ve got to find way. The key for us will be to go over there and get key hits with men on base. We haven’t been able to do that so far in their ballpark.”
NOTES: The bottom of the lineup was huge for South. Besides Shepherd’s three-run homer, Ivan Corriher accumulated three walks, a single and a sacrifice bunt, and Huffman contributed two hits and two walks. … After Church, South could turn to Cam Park, Dylan Walker and Scott Ashby for innings tonight. Bostian, who has been kept off the mound by a pulled muscle in his side, is a longshot.
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