Legion Baseball: Randolph County 6, South Rowan 2
By Mike London
LANDIS ó Rulings and controversies are as much a part of American Legion baseball as double plays and peanuts, and South Rowan’s third-round playoff series with Randolph County took an unexpected turn on Thursday.
Randolph’s Matthew Wheless hit a three-run homer, and South left an amazing 16 runners on base as it lost 6-2 and dug a 3-0 hole in the best-of-seven series, but on-field events generated less conversation than things happening off the diamond.
“American Legion baseball can be funny,” South coach David Wright said. “There’s one set of rules, but then again, you don’t know. You see some awfully strange things in summer baseball.”
He saw some yesterday.
Rowan and Burlington were stopped by lightning and rain after a half-inning on Tuesday. When the teams resumed play at Newman Park Wednesday, Burlington’s 1-2-3 top-of-the first stood, and Rowan was batting in the bottom of the first. It scored five quick runs.
South players went to bed Wednesday with a 3-1 lead they had built in 3 1/2 innings in a game halted by weather issues and had every reason to believe their “halted game” would use the same rulebook.
The original plan was for South and Randolph to resume Game 3 in the fourth inning yesterday afternoon and to follow with Game 4 at 7 p.m., but Wright learned at 1:40 p.m. the teams would instead start from scratch.
Randolph Post 45 coach Ronnie Pugh explained the sequence of events.
“There was considerable discussion Wednesday night about what to do, and I called (Area III Commissioner) Jim Lippard this morning and asked the question if this was supposed to be a suspended game or no game,” he said.
“I didn’t know if I’d get a call back, but my cell phone went off when we were on the bus today and going through Salisbury. He said he had got to thinking and talking to people (state commissioner Roy Waters) and he believed the game should be replayed in total. The timing of the ruling kind of surprised us, but it worked out for us.”
It didn’t work out very well for South, which lost considerable gate, among other things.
Obviously not everyone can attend a 4 p.m. game on a Thursday, and fans arriving at 6:30 for the game that was supposed to be played at 7 were unpleasantly surprised to discover the only game on tap was in the eighth inning.
Apparently, the rule for Legion “halted games” was applied correctly at South on Thursday, but if that’s the case, then it was misapplied in Game 4 of the Rowan-Burlington series.
South got decent pitching from lefty Zach Wright, who shut Randolph down after Wheless’ huge, two-out homer in the third. South had every opportunity to win, rulings or no rulings, but it didn’t come through in key situations.
South (21-16) sent 45 batters to the plate, but somehow managed only two runs from nine hits and eight walks.
“We haven’t been able to find a big hit, and finding big hits is what we’ve done when we’ve been successful this summer,” David Wright said. “We played hard, but we came up short because of that. Zach pitched well enough to win.”
Randolph bunched three singles and two wild pitches for three first-inning runs. South made it 3-1 in the second when Scott Ashby singled home Brett Huffman.
“We went out for the third inning, and I told Maverick (Miles) that it’s 3-1 on the scoreboard again, but the score is the opposite,” South shortstop Matt Ingold said. “I think we were all surprised when we got here and found out it was 0-0.”
Randolph starter Cotton Baughman was a magician, dodging seven singles and six walks to hold South to one run in six innings.
Baughman struck out Miles to end the second with the bases loaded, and he got Ivan Corriher to ground out with the bases full to end the fourth. Miles singled home a run in the eighth, but reliever Cam Cockman retired Caleb Shore and Corriher to strand three more runners.
Miles extended his hitting streak to 17 games, and Ryan Bostian hit in his 12th straight.
Randolph returns to South tonight for Game 4 at 7 p.m. and can wrap up the series and a berth in the state tourney.