Legion Baseball: Burlington 16, Rowan 14
By Bret Strelow
GRAHAM ó Burlington-Graham repeatedly overcame deficits Monday night, and Rowan County again faces one in its best-of-seven playoff series.
Seth Caison’s go-ahead, three-run homer in the eighth inning helped push Burlington to a 16-14 victory against visiting Rowan in Game 3 of the Area III semifinals.
Rowan, which trails 2-1 heading into tonight’s matchup at Newman Park, led on four separate occasions Monday.
“They’re a real pesky team,” said Rowan shortstop Justin Roland, who tied the game with a two-run homer in the fourth inning. “They just don’t go away.”
Rowan (27-10) took the lead for the final time in a three-run top of the eighth. It pulled within 13-12 when relief pitcher Zach Robinson plunked Micah Jarrett with the bases loaded. Roland and Philip Miclat scored on Zach Smith’s two-out single to give Rowan a 14-13 edge.
Billy Veal took the mound for the bottom of the eighth and retired the first two hitters. He walked Robinson, and Anthony Hezar fought back from a 1-2 count to draw another walk.
Caison, who had struggled at the plate late in Burlington’s extra-inning loss one night earlier, drilled a 1-1 pitch from Veal over the left-field wall.
“When I was on the on-deck circle, I was thinking I had to redeem myself when I had two plate appearances in extra innings where I didn’t even put the ball in play,” Caison said. “I wanted to make sure I at least put it in play this time.
“The first pitch I swung out of my shoes on. The second pitch was low, and the third one was left in the wheelhouse. I just got a hold of it and hit it pretty solid.”
Burlington, which has erased deficits in each of the first three games, fell behind 2-0 in the second inning Monday before responding immediately with five runs.
Roland’s home run tied the score at 5-all in the fourth. Veal delivered a two-run single later in the inning, and a single by D.C. Cranford gave Rowan an 8-5 advantage.
Burlington (26-6) bounced back with four runs in its half of the fourth, when Chris Dameron hit a grand slam off starter Russell Michalec. Rowan used a three-run sixth to inch ahead 11-10, and Burlington answered with three runs.
Five errors by Rowan infielders contributed to four unearned runs crossing in the first six innings. Flyballs also dropped in front of Rowan outfielders.
“It seemed like we’d make an error on routine groundballs and routine flyballs,” Rowan coach Jim Gantt said. “Those go as base hits in the book, but there were a lot of them that ought to have been caught in my opinion. If we make those plays, none of those rallies start. Walks killed us ó we were behind batters all night.”
Rowan, which will send Matt Hall to the mound tonight to oppose Burlington’s Tyler Snow, didn’t possess many pitching options Monday. Michalec, Veal and Parker Gobbel combined for seven walks and one strikeout.
Burlington’s five hurlers issued a total of 13 walks, and Rowan batters were hit four times. Rowan left 15 runners on base and struck out 12 times.
“We were fortunate we were able to score runs when they scored runs for the most part,” Burlington coach Johnny Slaughter said. “We were able to strand a lot of runners for them. For whatever reason, we were able to get an out without giving up a big, big inning.”