Legion Baseball State Tournament: Rowan 9, Wayne County 1
By Bret Strelow
GASTONIA ó Rowan County starter Tanner Brown dropped a fourth-inning popup in foul territory, and he gave up his first hit on the next pitch.Brown made only a few mistakes, and he prevented Wayne County from capitalizing on them.
Brown’s efficient effort on the mound led Rowan to a 9-1 victory in its state tournament opener at Sims Legion Park on Tuesday afternoon. Rowan, which will face Hope Mills (20-8) tonight at 7:30 p.m. in the winners bracket of the double-elimination event, registered 19 hits and scored seven times in the final four innings.Trey Holmes and younger brother Noah Holmes homered to back Brown, who retired the first 10 batters he encountered. Cambric Moye’s seventh-inning homer ó Wayne’s fourth and final hit of the contest ó broke up Rowan’s shutout bid.
Brown set aside the last two hitters in the seventh, then gave way to reliever Matt Hall. Rowan coach Jim Gantt sent Russell Michalec out for the final frame.
“Coach said if I went five innings that’d be good, that it’d probably get us through,” Brown said. “We knew it’d be hot, so I tried to stay real hydrated and drank a bunch of water.
“It worked out good. I hit my spots real good mostly using just a fastball. We played good defense and had a bunch of good plays.”
Leadoff hitter Justin Roland scored on a two-out single from Noah Holmes in the top of the first inning, and a third-inning homer from Trey Holmes gave Rowan a 2-0 edge.
The score remained the same until the sixth, when Zach Smith jogged home on D.C. Cranford’s sacrifice fly off Wayne starter Michael Douglas. Billy Veal moved to third on Austin Shull’s double and crossed the plate following a single by Roland.
Rowan (33-14) increased its lead in the seventh. Trey Holmes and Micah Jarrett singled off reliever Jesse Randolph before Noah Holmes belted a three-run homer for a 7-0 advantage.
“We started sitting back, waiting on our pitch,” he said. “We were just more patient.”
Wayne (24-7) finally broke through against Brown in the seventh, and Rowan added two runs in the eighth.
Brown, who departed with his pitch count in the mid-70s, rarely ran into trouble. Gourley stole second after his one-out single in the fourth, and he advanced to third when the throw went into center field. Power threat John Wooten hit a shallow popup to center, and Jay Rose struck out.
“If I had caught (the popup), I probably wouldn’t have had to throw to those extra batters that inning, especially in this hot weather,” Brown said. “I hit my spots, and we got out of it.”
Rowan was leading 4-0 when Tyler Edwards doubled with one away in the sixth, and Gourley drew a five-pitch walk.
Wooten, who hit 12 homers in Wayne’s first 30 games, got ahead in the count and smacked a groundball to the right side. Philip Miclat fired to second, and Roland’s throw to first completed the 4-6-3 double play.
“I thought that was the key to the game,” Gantt said. “I thought that changed the game right there.
“Tanner went at people and kept it down. They hit some balls hard, but they just hit them right to people. He pitches to the defense and lets them work.”
A brief lapse in control didn’t hurt Brown. He threw a first-pitch strike to 20 of 25 hitters, including 17 of the first 19.
Brown (8-2) didn’t have to contend with catcher Zach Wright, an East Carolina signee who was held out for disciplinary reasons. Wayne, which was averaging 8.6 runs per game, managed only five baserunners against Rowan’s three hurlers.
“You’re not going to win if you don’t get but four hits,” Wayne coach Brad Reaves said. “That’s not typical of our offense. Michael kept us in it early, and we just couldn’t scratch.
“You can’t win scoring one run in Legion baseball.”