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Legion State Tournament: Randolph 7, Rowan 1

By Bret Strelow
bstrelow@salisburypost.com
GASTONIA ó Outs, especially the kind Rowan County compiled in a 7-1 loss to Randolph County, were counterproductive.
iWe got outpitched, we got outplayed, we got outhustled, we got outhit and we got outcoached,î Rowan coach Jim Gantt said after his team suffered its first setback at the American Legion state tournament.
Rowan and Randolph entered Thursday with the only 2-0 records in the double-elimination event at Sims Legion Park.
Randolph is now the clear favorite, and Rowan (34-15) must defeat Cherryville (41-7) this afternoon to extend its season. First pitch is scheduled for 3 p.m., and Randolph (37-11) will face Clayton (21-12) at 7 p.m.
Rowan lost to Cherryville on the second day of last yearís tournament and fell 19-1 to Wayne County the next morning.
iI think weíll be able to get over this,î Rowan shortstop Justin Roland said. iWe canít come out dead like last year. We have to get back up and forget about it.î
Rowan began tournament play Tuesday and collected a combined 32 hits in its first two games. Randolph starter Tyler McSwain allowed one run and three hits in a tough-luck first inning, but Rowan managed two hits in the next six innings.
iFor him to get through that first inning only trailing by one run, that was sort of a minor miracle,î Randolph coach Ronnie Pugh said.
Roland opened the game with a flyball to left, and outfielder Steven Davis misplayed it into a single. Trey Holmes singled with one away, and Micah Jarrett walked to load the bases.
Noah Holmes hit a popup to left, and Davis let the ball sail over his head.
McSwain then struck out Zach Smith on three pitches, and Billy Veal popped out to second base.
iYou knew that was going to come back to haunt us against a good team that can score,î Gantt said.
Randolph tied the game with an unearned run in the third inning, and Austin Moyer smacked a two-run homer off starter Russell Michalec in the fourth.
McSwain homered off Parker Gobbel to begin Randolphís half of the sixth, and Ethan Marsh delivered a two-run single in the seventh.
Gantt said he deserved the blame for Rowanís performance.
iIt was just a poor exhibition of baseball, and I take sole responsibility,î he said. iI didnít coach it very well. We tried to explain some situations of what might happen, and we didnít get our point across.î
McSwain retired 21 of the next 26 hitters after allowing the RBI single in the first inning, and one batter reached on an error during that stretch.
McSwain induced four groundouts and 14 flyouts. Eight of the first 12 were caught by infielders.
iWhen you have a rough start, you start to think that you didnít do something right in the bullpen,î McSwain said. iI came out for the second inning, and I had a lot more on my fastball. I had more control with it.î
Rowan trailed 6-1 when it chased McSwain in the eighth inning. Noah Holmes and Smith had back-to-back singles with one away, and Scott Hayes entered to face Veal. A single loaded the bases, but Hayes struck out D.C. Cranford and pinch-hitter Justin Mock.
iIt takes so many people in an important tournament or series like this when youíre playing other quality ballclubs,î Pugh said.
Randolph, which edged Rowan in the Area III championship series, is two victories away from its first state title since 1978.
Rowan, with Veal likely starting on the mound, will meet a Cherryville team that beat host Gastonia 12-1 in seven innings Thursday. If Randolph handles Clayton, the winner of the Rowan-Cherryville matchup must defeat Post 45 two consecutive times Saturday.
iIn this situation I hate playing (Rowan),î Pugh said. iIíd like to see them win their way through to Saturday. I said before we came here that it needs to be Randolph and Rowan, preferably in that order.î

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