Legion Baseball: Rowan 11, Burlington 2
By Mike London
It required nearly 27 hours, but Matt Hall pitched Rowan County’s first nine-inning complete game of the summer.
Hall hurled the top of the first inning on Tuesday before Game 4 of the Area III semifinal series was halted by rain and lightning.
Hall returned to the mound Wednesday, started well, then had to deal with another lengthy lightning delay in the fourth inning.
Once play resumed, he pitched in rain, mist and drizzle to nail down an 11-2 victory that evened the best-of-seven series with Burlington-Graham at two games apiece.
The elements weren’t peaceful in the early innings, with black clouds frowning and high winds swirling above Newman Park. Then Rowan’s Billy Veal created a manmade storm with his first-inning grand slam.
Veal followed three walks and an infield hit with a two-out blow to right-center on one of the bigger swings of the series.
“Just a 2-2 fastball, middle in, and I got the bat head on it,” Veal said. “I didn’t know if it was gone or not. It was the first grand slam I’ve hit in my life.”
Rowan’s five-run first against Tyler Snow (4-1), made life relatively easy for Hall (4-1), who was making his first start since he beat Wilkes on June 19.
“This was right up there with my best games,” Hall said. “Billy gave me a cushion, my fastball was working great, and I kept it low. My arm felt good, and I took advantage of my opportunity to start a game.”
Hall struck out five and held a stout lineup to one hit over the first six innings. That hit was Adam Norris’ hot bouncer down the third-base line that went for two bases.
“Hall was amazing,” Veal said. “Had to be the best game I’ve ever seen him pitch.”
Zach Smith made a diving catch in right field to help out Hall in the fifth. Micah Jarrett went to the wall in center to make a sliding catch in the sixth.
“Matt worked fast, threw strikes and we made some nice catches,” Rowan coach Jim Gantt. “We swung the bats well, just had a good night all-around. We played the way we’re capable of playing.”
Burlington (26-7) had healthy swings at Hall late. Cale Rogers took him deep in the seventh to break up the shutout. Matt Parker homered in the eighth.
Burlington played well defensively with no errors and two double plays. Parker made a diving stop at shortstop, and Norris, the second baseman, soared to take a hit away from Trey Holmes.
Still, Hall, who is called “Larry” or “TNT” by his teammates and “Bulldog” by broadcasters and fans, had this one under control from the start.
“It looked like he had real good stuff when he went out there for that first inning Tuesday,” Gantt said. “He still had it tonight, and that’s not that easy to do. Rain delays can be scary because they can change your mindset when you’re going good, but Hall kept it going.”
Rowan showed patience at the plate and accepted nine walks ó eight of them early ó to go along with 10 hits.
Justin Roland spanked two doubles and scored three runs. Noah Holmes knocked in three runs with three singles. Smith contributed two RBIs. Philip Miclat had an odd double when he whacked a pitch on which a balk was called.
Roland’s RBI double and Smith’s two-out RBI single in the second gave Rowan a 7-0 lead. When play resumed after the delay, Noah Holmes delivered a two-run single to end Snow’s night.
Rowan had chances to make it a 10-run-rule, seven-inning affair, but Wes Southerfield turned in sterling long relief and kept everyone at the ballpark for the full nine.
Both teams have won their home games. Rowan (28-10) travels back to Graham tonight with momentum, but knowing it has to win a game in Burlington (26-7) if it’s going to survive the series.