Game 3: Rowan 9, Randolph 6
By Mike London
ASHEBORO ó It took four home runs, another game-saving play by second baseman Philip Miclat and a manly pitching performance by Russell Michalec for Rowan County to beat Randolph County at McCrary Park on Wednesday.Trey Holmes had two huge hits ó a go-ahead homer in the fifth inning and a two-run single in the sixth ó in Rowan’s 9-6 victory.
Miclat, Micah Jarrett and Billy Veal also homered for Rowan.
It was the first home playoff loss for Randolph (33-11), and Rowan grabbed a 2-1 lead in the best-of-five Area III championship series.
Game 4 is tonight at Newman Park, where Rowan (32-12) is perfect since the playoffs began. Conceivably it could be the last Legion game at the facility with its current look. Remodeling is in the planning stages.
“This could be the last game at Newman Park as it is now, and there’s so much history there,” Rowan coach Jim Gantt said. “If this is the last one, it’s fitting for it to be in a series like this.”
Michalec allowed a tape-measure, three-run homer to Ethan Marsh in the first inning, a blow that crashed into trees and could have knocked all the confidence out of Michalec a month ago. But the lean lefty has grown up under fire in the playoffs.
“The coaches told me I had to ‘man up’ against this team, throw to spots and get some groundballs and flyballs,” Michalec said.
Michalec manned up, didn’t walk anyone and was still pitching in the seventh when Gantt finally headed to the mound to take him out after Cam Cockman’s RBI single cut Rowan’s lead to 8-5.
Josh Hohn, a hard-hitting catcher who is transferring to Catawba, was the next batter, but Michalec wasn’t ready to surrender the ball.
“Russell told me, ‘Look, I can get this guy,’ ” Gantt said. “It didn’t exactly work out, but I was impressed he wanted to pitch to Hohn. Russell has come a long way.”
Hohn’s RBI double ended Michalec’s night, and Veal relieved. He got the last out in the seventh and survived the eighth when Miclat made a leaping catch of a liner with two on and one out. He stepped on second to complete an inning-ending double play.
“An even better play than the one he made in Game 2,” Randolph coach Ronnie Pugh said. “Because this ball was hit harder.”
The Randolph ninth belonged to Rowan closer Justin Roland. He set down three straight hitters for a save.
Rowan, especially third baseman Noah Holmes and catcher Matt Miller, played very well on defense.
After spotting Randolph three runs on Marsh’s homer, Rowan tied the game in the second. Roland’s sac fly scored D.C. Cranford before Miclat crushed a hanger over the left-field fence with Miller on base for a 3-3 tie.
“The first time I’ve ever hit a home run on a curveball,” Miclat said. “It hung inside, and I just waited on it.”
Michalec and Randolph starter Tyler McSwain took over after that, and neither blinked. It stayed 3-3 until Trey Holmes hit his tiebreaking homer in the fifth.
“I thought for sure I’d just lined out to right field,” Holmes said. “But the ball carries real well here.”
Pugh said it was a tremendous piece of hitting.
“Three of the four home runs Rowan hit were on balls we left over the plate for them,” Pugh said. “But the one Holmes hit was a good pitch in on his hands. I’ve got no idea how he got the barrel of the bat through.”
Holmes’ clout put Rowan ahead to stay, and his two-run single in the sixth made it 6-3.
In that at-bat, he got behind in the count against sidearming reliever Jake Ozment but finally served a pitch to right field to drive home Veal and Cranford. They had reached base when they were hit with pitches by McSwain.
“I really don’t like hitting against Ozment,” Holmes said. “But he tried to come in on my hands, and I got just enough of it to get it over the second baseman’s head.”
Jarrett hit a solo homer in the seventh. Then Veal lashed a two-run shot in the eighth.
“We worked into good counts,” Gantt said, “and didn’t miss if they made mistakes.”
NOTE: Randolph’s Steven Davis and Rowan’s Zack Simpson are the probable starters for Game 4.